Jun 09 2011
Sitting in a hotel ballroom at a ministers’ conference in May, my spouse Kevin and I hear the worship leader ask: “Imagine your vocation—your call to ministry—as a light that burns within you. What kind of light is your call right now? Is it a flickering pilot light, in danger of snuffing out? Is it strong and steady like an energy-saving light bulb? Is it in the midst of changing?”
We close our eyes. Kevin turns his heart toward his new congregation in Danvers,
Just then, Kevin leans over and says quietly, “My call is a TORCH!”
“Yes,” I stage-whisper back, “mine, too!” Our faces shine.
Before I left on sabbatical, almost six months ago, I shared a long list of paths I wanted to explore, of things to do and ways to be that I hoped would reconnect me with my sources of healing, refreshment, renewal, change, and balance. Most of all, I wanted to remember how to be receptive, for this is how the Holy comes to us. I wanted to reconnect with the Ground of My Being.
Now, on the verge of my official return, I can say that every dream I had has been fulfilled—and then some! Some plans unfurled exactly as I had envisioned (I really did learn a whole form of Tai Chi, for instance), and some hopes were satisfied in ways I couldn’t have imagined beforehand—like the heart-pounding pleasure I rediscovered in learning, even when it’s simply a new verb tense in Spanish. I have lived deeply into my life, with its joys, its sorrows, its ordinary and extraordinary days, and I have discovered practices that, with faithfulness, will sustain me even as the “hubbub” returns. Most of all, I have felt my call to ministry and my call to you, dear community, reconfirmed and recentered, brought back to its essence.
What is the essence of this call? Unitarian Universalist minister David Pohl writes that the minister’s vocation “is to love those entrusted to our care, build up the church that shelters us, and be faithful to the vision that draws us on.” Ministry, Pohl goes on, “is, first of all, a way of living, and only secondarily a way to make a living. It is about being in love with people, with learning, with the church, with a faith that, for us, is both tough-minded and tender-hearted…. It is about sharing hope and love and courage with those we are privileged to lead and serve.”
Friends, in our shared ministry, these words apply to us all. As I reenter the stream of our community life, won’t you join me in renewing our commitment to this call? To love, to build, to stay true to our vision. To be in love with people and learning, in love with this institution we build together and with the faith that sustains it, which asks of us and gives to us so much. To share hope, love, and courage by living our lives out loud together, honoring our learnings, our joys, our sorrows, our ordinary and extraordinary days, always opening our hearts to the stranger, making room for the voices we have not yet heard, drawing the circle wider still.
With such a “vision of ministry clear,” the flame of our call will, sure enough, brighten our hearts and help to warm the world. I’ll see you in a few weeks!
In joyful anticipation of our reunion,
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