Prayer. Spirit. Inspiration. Encouragement. Hope. Challenge.
The first clergy conference I ever went to, there was a conversation about retirement and pension and what happens when there is slide as boomers start to retire, and then there will be the post-boomer slump; ie what happens to the pension plan. I opened my big mouth and said that I was not expecting there to be a pension by the time I get there, and that I was not expecting one. I didn’t say that for any other reason than I have thought about it, and have come to terms with it. IF there does happen to be one, great, but that’s not why I am in the ministry of the church. Its not that its not a concern, but rather we may have to sort something else out.
Another time, another conversation, a colleague, at the other end of his career, had told me that when he was first ordained, he thought that things would be radically different by the end of his career; the church having shrunk, close to all clergy would be non-stipendiary, and exciting forms of church would be replacing traditional parish ministries everywhere. At the end of his career; none of that was the case. I was told in my discernment and while at seminary to expect the church to change and to not always expect to be in a full-time paid ministry position.
I find myself thinking and wondering about all of those things.
And more. the practical day to day living out of our faith and hope. for me, that is ministry with and for Refugees, ministry online, ministry in the parish. It shouldn’t be a challenge to live that out day to day, but it feels like it is, to remind myself that God is immanent; God is around us, and with us, and in all places. There is nowhere we go that God is not there first. There is no place we can look in the heights of joy or the depths of depression that God is not there. I fight against the darkness of depression in myself constantly, and all too often keep it all bottled up. It is good to share that struggle with others, whether I or they know it or not. Just being with others in particular ways sometimes makes a world of difference, and reminds me to not only look, but to see God at work right in front of me, so that I don’t miss what God is doing, right in front of me – inviting me to join and be a part of it. There is life, and hope, and love.
Last week I was able to go and attend a conference for clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada – Conversations 2014: Clergy under 40 talk to God and each other. One voice of about 40 participants, I really enjoyed the opportunity to pray and talk with colleagues about both our shared and individual hopes, dreams, cares, challenges and concerns.
We talked about the future of the church, discipleship, relationships, resources, health and wellness, our families, our jobs, ourselves, ministry, work, who was there, who was not there, and a whole lot more.
We worked from a premise that said that the wisdom for our conversations was already in the room – that the people who were gathered were all the right people for the conversations we were to have. We didn’t have any key-note speakers, or major over-arching themes. We were a group of colleagues who had come together to pray, listen to God, get to know each other and support each other, sharing the sacraments and sharing our lives.
Being at this conference put me in a room with a bunch of other people who are faced with those same kinds of questions – faced with all kinds of uncertainties, at the earlier stages of our careers of ministry with the church.
I second-guess myself constantly, I always labour over whether I am making the “right” choice, and I worry about whether I am in the right place, doing the right thing. For me, at this conference, I wasn’t feeling any of that like I usually do. Instead of being afraid of the questions, I was talking about them. I was hearing the hope and encouragement that others were feeling. I was being confronted with the challenge of what others were experiencing in their ministry. I was challenged to re-think and re-examine how I have been thinking and acting. It helped restore my hope and encouragement for what I am doing, and for the church, and being a part of it.
As I looked around the room on the last day, I was very glad to be working alongside those fine people as we work together to enable, empower and build up the kingdom of God in the Anglican Church across the country.