When you have been at this ministry thing a while, when you have been “re-inventing” oneself, “renewing one’s ministry,” “exploring new models,” “challenging oneself to new possibilities” for as long as I have been doing this…it gets tiring.
Though I know it makes me sound old, (well, hell, I am getting older after all) there comes a time when you want to recognize that you do know some things, you do have some life experience and maybe even some hard won wisdom towards how things work and what might not work, and, how people are in the world. That wisdom comes with living life fully. I’d like to think it would make my labors more rich and meaningful.
But it is exhausting to always be on the edge of the precipice of the unknown, to always be struggling with problems and crises in ministry among the mainline Protestant churches. And yet, even as I listen I discover that it is not just among the mainline Protestant churches, but also in Roman Catholic churches, and in the synagogue and the mosque too.
Membership is dropping. Old ways of doing church/religion/faith have hurt people, driven them away, bored them so much they just went out for coffee instead. Funds to continue in ministry and service are drying up. Buildings are sold and congregations consolidated or closed down; small rural congregations especially, are disappearing at an amazing rate. The crises of faith, and hurt, and suffering within the faith communities (and beyond them in the world) leave this minister stunned at the end of the day. The anger, the betrayals, the harsh rhetoric leave this minister on edge.
What to do in such tumultuous times?
At the end of the day, I find I can only reach out to others, seeking a listening ear and support, to help me keep on standing. I seek the source of joy, and the wellsprings of peace within my soul, or I beg for some time at the wells of joy that my colleagues have, and share.
The countless blogs, articles, programs and “new ideas” will keep coming. But my brothers and sisters in the communities of faith will be the ones who help me keep standing. They will dry my tears, help me up again, and we will stand the storm of our day.
We will love, and serve, and laugh and cry. We will seek transcendent beauty and grace, and live in humble love, and smile at the goodness of the world.
The strongest witness to the God I love will not be a flashy new program but the witness of my life. Still helping, hoping, preaching a word of love. Still standing after all these years.
(Andy has been engaged in ministry since 1980, though she did take a 3-year break to have two children!)
Andy CastroLang is senior pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. She is deeply committed to civil discourse between individuals and throughout our community; in interreligious conversation, private conversation, intergenerational conversation and yes, even in political conversation. She has been a supporter of SpokaneFaVS since its inception because she supports this creative effort at thoughtful community conversation.
Amen Andy, I stand with you in those challenges…I mean how can I do effective ministry if I can’t wear a manbun because I have a bald spot!?!