Breathe, Just Breathe

Every year, around my birthday, I take a honest look at my life and reevaluate where I’m going and what I’m doing, what I believe and what I chose to reexamine.  This year I turned 53.  And I decided that some things needed to change.  My goal for this year was to cultivate an attitude of serenity and just let stuff go. 

I was doing pretty well until last week.  This Advent/Christmas season was the best emotionally for me in a very long time.  Then the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.

Little Church Around the Corner rents 98% of its facilities to a community Day Care, run by a county not-for-profit.  It was established at LCAC a year before I came.  I still haven’t gotten all the details, but the prevailing feeling is that the parishioners were somehow ‘conned’ into accepting it.  Fastforward five years and the contract between the church and daycare will be up this July.  Unbeknownest to me (and not cleared through me), the Church Council Chair called for folks to let their feelings about renewing the contract be known.  Snail mail letter or e-mail.  Signed of course.

Long story short, they not only vented about the DayCare, but they complained about everything else.  All the new things we’ve added to make this church seem more welcoming, seem more friendly, and to offer to seekers.  They don’t like the changes … and they don’t like the changes as much as they don’t like the DayCare.

Church Council Chair recommending putting together a committee to discuss whether or not the church should enter into contract talks with the DayCare and then she recused herself.  So, it gets left to me.

I’ve got a lot on my plate and my mind right now.  All the things I’ve tried to institute to help this church LIVE have been blown apart.  Screw all the work we’ve done with core values, mission and vision statements.  Screw the programs in which we invested A LOT of time, energy and money.  These folks just want to play at church, not be the church.

And if they kick the Day Care out, there goes 15% of our income, our reputation that we’re a “changed” church (there is a history), the new Youth Director and youth program because they won’t give any more money.

Yesterday I allowed myself to feel how angry I am – and it scared me.  I’m so tired of ministry and the crap that goes with it.  There are days when I just hate this frickin’ life.

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Can You Repeat That? I’m Not Sure I Got It the First Time.

Last Sunday was an exercise in frustration.  Neither Power Point worship was on the UBS drive (What was the Church Secretary doing all week?).  Add to that the Scripture Lesson nor the Advent Candle reading was in the bulletin.  She had made copies of each for our early service, but did not put them in for the later worship.  (Again, what WAS she doing?  Come to think of it, every time I went into the church office, she was out in the kitchen visiting with the Day Care staff.  Sigh.

We had to bring in hymnals from the sanctuary for our early CONTEMPORARY (important word!) Worship.  Afterwards, one of the regular attenders (who is older) came up to me and said that we need to sing more from the hymnal because he really misses it.  Um, huh?  This is a CONTEMPORARY worship, we usually sing the new stuff.  If you want the old stuff, attend the second service, which is at 11 AM.  You will not get out at 9:30, but you can sing out of the hymnal.

We use a woodburning insert to help the church with the heating bills.  Their responsibility:  Procure and cut the wood.  My gifts:  Paying the $200 to get the chimney cleaned and stacking the wood in our basement after they’ve cut it and chucked it in.  Last year there was a disagreement over how BIG to cut the pieces.  The 18 inchers won out.  The insert is 16″ X 12.”  A lot of the wood didn’t fit and we burned everything that did.  They didn’t get any wood for this year and Hubs and I aren’t burning what we don’t have.  After church on Sunday, the Trustees asked if they could get into the basement to cut the wood.  IN THE BASEMENT?  I just cleaned, steamed, mopped, washed, dusted and decorated the house for Christmas AND YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?????

Oi.  Lord have mercy!

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In the Fullness of Time

This year after four years of marriage, Son and Daughter-in-Love will be putting up their own Christmas tree.  This year after four years of living on her own, Daughter #1 will also be putting up her first Christmas tree.

My and Hubby’s tree is more of a “family” tree.  Every ornament has a sentimental meaning for us.  The ornaments are either handmade by or for us or have been given to us while we have been pastors.  They include ornaments that have been made for and by our children.

I’ve offered them to our kids as they start their own family traditions.  I will cry a little as they take them because it is just the inevitability of life.  The fullness of time.

I praise God for the adults they have grown into.  Daughter #2 is self-assured, confident and compassionate.  Son has grown into a mirror image of his father – not a bad thing.  He is kind, loving, and incredibly funny.  But I am especially thankful of their deep and abiding Christian faith.   They have grown and matured into it well.  In the fullness of time.

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A Smattering of Randomness

OK, so it’s more like a dollup.

After all my angst about starting Major Evangelism Program, it has gone well.  We’ve averaged about 60 folks on Wednesday evenings – mostly our folks.  We have not seen an increase in new faces on Sunday mornings, but the folks at Small Church feel good about the program and what they are offering; and generally how they are working together.  Mixed blessing – We’re not seeing our growth goals realized but they are feeling good about finally doing something as a church.  Meeting on Tuesday to decided if and when we’re going to be doing this program again.

Because of the UM Call to Action, our Conference is asking each church to work on a Call to Ministry Action Plan by reviewing programs, services, et al to see if they are really “working” to add folks (via Profession of Faith) to the membership rolls; to baptize their babies/children/youth/them; to increase the number of small groups (and relationships); yada, yada, yada.  Again, mixed blessings.  Small Church has a wonderful Leadership Team who judge the church’s ministry by their Mission Statement, Core Value and motto.  They’ve taken their time to go over and over and over the Call to Ministry form and to formulate (what they think) are realistic and accessible goals.  No problem there.  Unfortunately, Small Church does not have the lay leadership needed to make these goals a reality.  Energizing missions, revamping the Sunday School program, forming a Praise Band are all wonderful ideas, but Small Church does not have the personnel to plan, organize and implement these things.  With the expectations that PPRC wants me to concentrate on, I won’t have the time to do or to train up leaders.

The Leadership Team took a pot shot at Small Church’s early service.  The service averages about 15 and is made up of mostly the middle aged adults with children and youth.  The Leadership Committee wants to abandon the service because (1) It’s not growing; (2)  They don’t see these folks outside of Sunday mornings; and (3)  They think these folks’ commitment levels to Small Church are nil.  I know that if Small Church decides to end Early Worship, they will not see these folks at the later service.  There is a fine line they need to walk when it comes to goals and needs.

My season of spiritual discontenment seems to be ending.  The funny thing is I’ve ended up where I started – as a middle-of-the-road Wesleyan.  I can’t say it’s been fun struggling and soul-searching, but I’ve come to a better understanding of what, how and why I believe what I do.

I’m still burned out.  I need to reset boundaries and take care of myself.  I just celebrated another birthday and the theme I’m getting for reflection from the Spirit for this next year is Simplicity.  I can do that.

Into the future.

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We’ve been on vacation for the past week.  It is the only time of year when all our family members are together as one unit.  It’s been a good week.  Grandbabyboy is almost six years old and he will become a big brother sometime in April.  Daughter-in-love starts a new teaching job when she and Son return home.  And Daughter #2 starts her last semester of Masters classes.

Usually at this point, I am ready to go “home” – I’m rested, mentally good and optimistic about the future.  This year, I’m feeling different.  I’ve slept (a lot); reconnected with God; spent most of time loving on my family, but I’m not ready to go back.  I want to go “home,” but going “home” means I’m thrust back into the turmoil of my ministry.

I’m not sure where the church/Church is headed.  My little congregation is embarking on a MAJOR evangelistic course, spending most of their energy and time and lots and lots of money preparing for it.  I’m scared witless that it’s going to crash and burn.  As I hate being micromanaged, I have resisted the urge to do the same with each of the committees.  If someone drops the ball, I’m not going to go rushing in and scoop it up.  But, I hate to see it just spinning there.

Little Church has a good, solid leadership team.  I trust them.  We have some ideological differences, but for the sake of love and ministry, I’m willing to not split hairs.  But what if all these resources fail to do what they are counting on – keeping the church alive and solvent?

What if I don’t have the answers?  What if they’re disillusioned and quit?  What if?  What if?  What if?

I know God is ultimately in control.  I know I am not God.  I want to see into the future.

It’s time to go “home.”

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I think I’ve turned the corner and I’m gonna be OK.

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Will It Go Round in Circles?

I’m starting my fourth year of ministry here.

It’s time to kick the fledging leaders out of the nest and let them fly on their own.

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