I attended my quasi-home church the other morning, expecting to hear a visiting pastor speaking on "the art of listening to yourself"--spiritual stories and memoirs, that sort of thing--and was surprised to listen instead to the candidate for full time minister at the congregation. this was not a problem.
julianne lepp, the candidate, is young and southern and interesting. her sermon was titled "lifeministry: diving deep" and had a water motif--her referent point was the ocean and diving into it. "we swim together," she said in her conclusion; "we might want to swim alone but the lifeguard has a rule: we must swim together."
the congregation seemed taken with her and her partner (their children were not there) and I think she will make a good fit for the eau claire congregation. she is solidly in the mold of the last two ministers, virginia woolf and (interim) wendy jerome. like with them, I found her easy to listen to (not unchallenging but easy to follow and to understand) and essentially optimistic, which is important in fellowship. if she is confirmed, I look forward to good conversations with her.
but while listening to her I came to an interesting epiphany about myself. I enjoyed parish work when I did it--the sermons, visits, the hustle of writing and meetings--but I think I'm coming to realize that this may not be the future for me. I am feeling drawn closer to a new style of ministry devoted to people outside church walls, more like community or service ministry. I've had a hard time articulating what I mean: a ministry of doing and being on the street with people (especially the homeless) and traveling. if I had my druthers, I'd be one of those annoying traveling ministers who set up camp at rainbow gatherings and dead show parking lots and behind carnivals and tent revivals. I'd love to give sermons, but that wouldn't be likely. I'd be more often serving people, getting food together, talking one on one with people, hanging out with kids and old people, sewing up ripped clothes and setting up healthcare appointments. most often, listening to the stories people tell.
this would be wonderful. I'm not aware of any way to make a living at it.