Tag Archives: pastoral transitions

The Time In Between

A lot has been happening in my life recently…

In May, Richard and I decided to take the plunge and build our “retirement” home in North Georgia near Richard’s family and our grandchildren. Of course I have no plans to retire for at least another 12 years; but we’ve decided over the past year that it is time for Richard to spend more time with his family. He’s 11 years my senior; and at this time in our lives it is especially important for him to have quality time with both his children and our grandchildren. We’re secure enough in our relationship to live apart for extended periods of time as necessary; and we’re financially blessed enough that we can afford two modest homes (OK; one modest home and one very small studio apartment–but you get the point).

During the past year, and while having these discussions regarding our future destination, I also started getting that “feeling” about my current position at Holy Covenant. If you’re a pastor, you know the one. That is, everything is going OK. No huge drama. Things are moving along rather smoothly. It’s quiet–almost too quiet. Then you start having this nagging feeling that you’ve done all you can do in this particular place, position and time. Slowly you realize it’s time to move on. Yeah, that feeling.

And I hate that feeling.

After all, we have it good in Brookfield. I can walk to work; we can walk to the commuter rail that takes us into downtown Chicago for our date nights. We can walk to local restaurants and bars. We’re out to everyone in this little conservative village (to give you an idea of just how conservative Brookfield is, Paul Ryan won the Republican primary here during the last election cycle). Yet we’ve never felt mistreated by anyone. In fact, we feel quite welcome here. The folks at Holy Covenant are supportive and loving. So what the heck was this feeling all about?

At the end of the day, you really can’t explain it. You just know. Something else I knew was I would not water down the spiritual and theological transformation that has taken place in my life over the past few years. I am theologically Unitarian and Universalist (which I’ve also discovered during the past year is different from being a Unitarian Universalist). I am also Christian in that I choose the path of the human Jesus as my path of spiritual transformation. So any church considering extending an offer to me would have to at least know and accept these things about me–whether or not they were on the same theological page as me.

Some colleagues who are familiar with my spiritual journey recommended MCC of Northern Virginia (MCC NOVA) as a congregation who would be a potential excellent fit. So beginning in mid-May, I began the extensive application process. Then in late June the Pastoral Search Committee (PSC) selected me as the candidate for the next settled Pastor of that congregation. One the same day the search committee at MCC NOVA announced me as the candidate for settled pastor, I notified the congregation at Holy Covenant that I would be candidating at MCC NOVA in early August (I spoke with the board the day before), effectively giving a 2-month notice for a position that has not yet been offered to me. No pressure there…

Now Richard and I are in this “in between” time. Ground will be broken for our Georgia home later this week. We will put our house in Brookfield on the market by September 1st and hope like crazy that it sells before the house in Georgia is finished. We are headed to Virginia this week for my 4-day candidacy interview/meet and greet; and we will know by August 4th whether or not we’ll be heading to Virginia in late September–Richard part-time and me full-time.

While I feel great about my chances of being selected as the settled Pastor of MCC NOVA, nothing is really settled at this point–other than the fact we know we’re going somewhere. I have no doubt we will be OK no matter what happens; and we’re both excited about our future possibilities, while simultaneously grieving the pending loss that comes with leaving a community of people we truly love.

Well, so much for things being quiet…

Blessings on your journeys!

Why Are You Hanging On?

Last week I traveled to Boston for my candidacy interview with one of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Regional Sub-Committees on Candidacy. The interview was thorough, and the committee made me feel quite at ease. For me, the interview was a good mixture of serious inquiry and laughter. I passed the interview and have begun addressing the long list of requirements necessary to interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for full fellowship with the UUA.

For last week’s interview I was allowed to provide the first question for the committee to ask. The question was: “If you identify as a Unitarian Universalist, why not simply transfer your credentials from MCC rather than seek plural standing?” I thought it was a good question; plus I was certain it would come up anyway, so why not address this issue first?

My basic answer was, based on my spiritual journey to date, UU’ism is the next logical step on my journey. I appreciate the fact I am allowed–even encouraged–to responsibly experiment with my spirituality and theology, which isn’t always the case in many traditional Christian denominations. Plus, I believe the future success of liberal religious traditions (of which both the UUA and MCC are a part) will be found in cooperation and not “turf” competition. Beyond my answer, I also believe by having a foot in each world, not only do I benefit, but the congregations I serve also potentially benefit from the rich diversity of wisdom and practice found in both groups.

A variation of this question I’ve been asked lately by other folks is: “If you’re a UU, why are you hanging on to MCC?” Ah, the brand loyalty question! It’s a fair question, too.

After much reflection, what I’ve determined is I’m not really “hanging on” to anything. Through my writings, sermons, meetings, classes and one-on-one discussions, I’ve outed myself as a UU to a large segment of the MCC leadership as well as to the congregation I serve. And just like after the elections last week, the world continues to spin on its axis. Unlike after the elections last week, however, no one is threatening to secede. I’m blessed to still be able to speak, write and teach with integrity in my current context. What I am saying is I am not serving in my current church simply because it is an MCC. I serve at Holy Covenant because I love the community itself and what we’re becoming over time.

Of course I’m not so naive as to believe life will never change. Everything changes–as evolution teaches must happen in order for any living thing to thrive. So the day may indeed come when, for the good of both the congregation and me, it will be time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. And that move could be MCC-related, UUA-related, both or neither.

That day, however, is not today.

Still, I think the question of “Why are you hanging on?” is a good one for all of us to ponder; and this question can be applied to any area of our lives.

So, ponder away and may you be at peace with your answers. And you’re not, may you find the strength you need to make the changes necessary to find that peace.

Blessings on your journeys!