I did it again last Tuesday.
When someone asked me which church I pastor, I answered, “I’m not in a church right now.”
That has been my default response for a couple of years.
In a strictly literal sense, it’s accurate that I am not on staff at a congregation at this moment in time. But this caveat does nothing to capture the fullness of my call and the way I live it out.
I strive, with all that I do, to promote health in congregations and the people who lead them.
I do this by encouraging and strategizing with clergy and search teams.
I do this by putting content into the world that focuses on hospitality and hope.
I do this by filling pulpits so that weekly preachers can recharge.
I do this by connecting ministers with each other in groups for learning and support.
I am, in truth, a minister-at-large, a multi-denominational mercenary. If I do ever take a position on a church staff again – which seems unlikely at this point – it will probably be in a part-time and/or interim capacity. I am not giving up coaching, writing, and workshop-leading in the ecumenical realm. I’m in the kind of groove that makes me think I’m doing what I’ve been created to do. And I’m able to impact the health of more clergy and congregations than ever before.
So why do I default to the “right now” response, as if I am keeping an eye out for something different?
Maybe it’s mere habit at this point, a holdover from a time when I felt less secure in my pastoral identity.
Maybe it’s because people have a hard enough grasping the concept of a woman in ministry, much less a woman in a non-traditional ministry, and I don’t have the energy or will to explain/defend myself.
Maybe it’s because I still fear, somewhere in the recesses of my heart, that I will ultimately fail at carving out a sustainable niche.
Whatever the reason, it ends now. What church do I serve? I serve the Church of Jesus Christ. I am a minister of the good news of God’s love for all people. I am an advocate for hospitality toward authentic selves – our own and others’.
This is my call, and I claim it.