Saturday, May 10, 2008

Will preach for food ... no wait ... for the highest bidder!

I don't do unemployment very well. There ... it's out ... I feel better. ;-) There are folks who have raised unemployment to an art form - I'm even related to some of them. But I don't know how to do it very well. Guess that's the latent Lutheran, Scandinavian work ethic imbued in my DNA.

I made my resignation from Gathered by Christ official this week with a letter to my bishop. He's in hospital, but I copied all the folks who need to be "in the know." Best to make it clear to everyone involved that my call to serve Gathered by Christ is finished and to make room for the next call.

So I can't really call myself the "Virtual Vicar" anymore ... since I'm not technically a vicar of anything. The pope is the "vicar of Christ" ... not me. And does Christ really need a vicar?! Hmmm ... makes me wonder ... ah well, sorry about that ... brain sometimes goes off to the Bahamas for a minute!

Anyway, I'm now doing what we call "supply work" and it's kind of cool. I get to visit other churches while their clergy are on vacation and preside at worship. I go in, I preach the sermon, preside at the Eucharist, have some coffee and chat time with the locals, get a check and go home. As supply clergy I'm just there for the day gig so the members of the congregation are quite happy to see me come and have been very gracious and welcoming. I don't have to go to vestry meetings, get embroiled in any congregational controversy, make prophetic spiritual or moral demands on the members, or run a stewardship campaign. Nope, just preaching and liturgy and take it on the toe. It's a nice respite ... and I'm liking it. Of course, it won't sustain me financially (yeah, there's always a "down side" isn't there??). I need a call, but hopefully this will carry us through until something appropriate opens up for me.

Being a "supply clergyperson" sounded a bit boring and "unemployed priest" just wasn't doing anything for my sense of self and call. "Hired gun" was a bit too violent for a woman of the cloth. So I came up with "Mercenary Presbyter for Christ" ... a bit more joie d' vive and says it all, don't you think? :-D

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Call and cure

Lately I've been mulling the difference between call and cure. In the church, we speak of being called by God to ministry. That is true for all people of faith, regardless of whether you are ordained or not. When you are ordained, we speak of being called to a particular congregation to be a priest or pastor. But what happens when this call to serve a particular congregation goes away? What does it mean? This is where I am right now.

With the help of friends, I've come to realize that the Call (that "capital C" Call) is bigger than any one congregation's circumstances. Speaking of being called to a congregation can certainly muddy the waters of definition. Call is bigger than any one community or circumstance. I worked a Cursillo weekend (Maryland 95) last weekend. It was just what I needed to get this question straightened out in my heart and mind. It was clear that my Call to be a priest was still there and strong as ever. My call to Gathered by Christ has finished - but that is only a part of my Call.

One of our fellow spiritual advisers last weekend was the Rev. Eddie Blue from Holy Trinity in Baltimore. It's been a great blessing to get to know Eddie+ through the teaming process and we found ourselves cutting up quite a bit ... nothing like a little clerical stream of semi-consciousness humor to keep things interesting. When I said to Eddie+ that I was "losing my call" to this congregation, he replied, "You haven't lost your call, you've lost your cure." Hmmm ... hadn't thought about it that way.

Webster's dictionary defines cure as a noun in three basic ways:
  1. A remedy, healing
  2. A means to preserve meat
  3. A spiritual or religious charge of the people
I don't think "door number 2" applies here ... but maybe one of my readers will find an interesting way to do so (never underestimate the creativity of the blogosphere!). Definitions one and three have some traction though. Three describes the call to a congregation as a cure. That's the "little c" call. It's a call for a reason and a season. Some cures are long term ... others quite short. I was called to take spiritual charge of the people at Gathered by Christ for the purpose of doing whatever God wanted me to do there for God's glory. It turned out that what God wanted was definition number 1 - a healing.

Today, I returned from Diocesan Convention. This is my last official act as Vicar of Gathered by Christ. I distributed all the letters of transfer this past week to the remaining few members. The last one went to our delegate to convention ... he couldn't leave until after he finished his duties!

So I've completed my work there. Now to write the resignation letter to my bishop to make it all official. It was a cure from God ... in more ways than one.