Just when you thought I'd fallen off the face of the earth ... I'm back. ;-) The bathroom is still in a shambles but the new cabinets are installed and look quite nice. Tile floor and bath deck next (more demolition before that happens), then the paint, then we are done. I will be glad when it ends.
In the midst of all the stuff at home, I'm now almost 2 months into a new position as a staff chaplain with Hospice of Washington County. After being involved in an arduous 8 month long search process which ended last August with the other candidate getting the call, I was quite honestly fed up with all of it. There is no ideal way for a pastor/priest to enter congregational life - searches have their pitfalls (and they are many) but so do placement processes where the congregation gets no say in who is sent to be their spiritual leader. After what our daughters went through with the anxiety of a possible move and given their ages, I vowed not to do this again until they were out of the home. Searches are not kind to families at all!
This past fall, I began to look at other options. My time as a paid Assistant Rector was running short and my position at Calvary UMC was not going to become full-time ... and I needed full-time employment. So when I saw the ad in our local paper for chaplains at Hospice of Washington County, I sent my resume into them. I really wasn't sure I was cut out for hospice chaplaincy, but one of my seminary professors once said, "Talk to everybody. You don't know what the Holy Spirit might have in mind!" Well ... long story short ... I was offered the position on the spot at my interview. How refreshing to work with an organization that can make a decision without dragging it out ad infinitum!
My new boss, Steve, is a joy to work with as are the other four chaplains on our team. Steve's mother Sue is the Executive Director and she has worked very hard to create a work environment that is supportive of all the employees. I am very blessed to be there!
Working at hospice with people who are dying does change your perspective about what's really important and what's not. Steve and I were talking about this and his comment to me was, "The theological positions I'm willing to take a bullet for now are very few." I liked that image and it makes me wonder if this isn't how we should frame the question within the context of congregational life.
From my past work in congregations, I've witnessed people (myself included) taking hard and fast entrenched positions which, in light of the reality and finality of death, really aren't worth taking a bullet for. Church politics, personality clashes, arguments over whose scriptural interpretation is the "right one," threats of schism and power plays ... they all seem very foolish and childish. Too many times we cling to these issues as if they held ultimate importance - they don't! Faith in Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is of ultimate importance - everything else lags far behind.
What are you willing to take a bullet for? Have you held onto something which, in the face of death, really doesn't matter? If you don't know, go spend a few hours with a dying person and let them teach you a thing or two about priorities.