Thursday, January 31, 2013

slightly weird pastor moments

As if the whole church thing were not weird enough, we use some really strange language.

I know I'm not an outsider anymore, but there are times when I still feel like one. And one of those times is when we use weird terms to describe things. Not like theological language, which is already bizarre in its way but has its uses just like any other insider language (educators have one, computer people have one, journalism has one, medicine has one, etc). Not even hipster language--like when everything is authentic and intentional and relational and relevant, or whatever. But flat out weird institutional language.

Like when a new pastor is called (not hired), they are installed (they don't just start work until they get properly...well, all the metaphors I can think of sound dirty--ie, what we do with lightbulbs, appliances, software...). When they leave their relationships are dissolved (which I suppose is the slightly softer way of saying "cut off"). And we're now called Teaching Elders, not simply pastors or ministers (though for the record, "minister" was a seriously problematic term when it comes to thinking about the priesthood of all believers anyway).

(yes, I know that no one outside the church knows what the priesthood of all believers is. Maybe that'll be a future post.)

Sometimes the language is problematic--for instance: yes, we are are "called" to a particular position. But that "call" is also a "job" and not just in the sense that we need a way to talk about what we do all day to people who don't get it. Because we're Called whether or not we have a job, inside or outside the church. Sometimes when we are between jobs, or looking for a new job, or uncertain about various aspects of our jobs, that language confusion makes it feel like our call is in question, when in fact it's not. It may be in transition, but our call exists whether or not we have a call. See the problem?

All this stuff is relevant to me right now because this Sunday I'll be installed as the Pastor/Head of Staff at my new call (aka job). While I'd like to think that isn't really about screwing me in so I can light up the room, some people might think that's what the pastor's job is--to be twisted around until she can shine the light for everyone else. Others might think the pastor's job is to work for them like any other appliance they fit into its slot in the kitchen or utility room and plug in/hook up.

No metaphor is perfect--and those are so far off base as to be painful, though many may hold them anyway--but perhaps the software installation is as close as we get to this weird use of language in the church. When you install software on your computer (at least in my extremely basic understanding), it's purpose is to help you do what you need to do. Microsoft Word isn't an end in itself, and it doesn't do anything by itself (we hope)--it gives you the tools you need to communicate. That's kind of what a pastor is for. Our job is to equip the saints for ministry. Not to do everything, or to be the light ourselves, but to give people the tools to follow their call in the world and as a church.

As for the dissolution thing--well, the word is weird but I will say that it captures the feeling.

So: this Sunday, 10am, at the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, we will gather to celebrate that I'm joining in the work of this community, finding new ways to equip the saints for faithful 21st century lives. We will wear red stoles, a reminder that the Holy Spirit is a party to the call, so it is more than just being hired for a job. Come on over--if nothing else, it'll be a blast!


(totally off-topic: this is my 1500th post on this blog! It's been a wild 11 years to come up with 1500 things to say...)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

pilgrimage

A long time ago (okay, just shy of three years ago...I had a blogging dry spell for a while there) I started a one-word project: I asked people to give me one word as a writing prompt, and I would write a blog post inspired by that word.

Since I'm busy at the RevGals Big Event this week, contemplating writing as a spiritual practice, it seemed like a good time to resurrect the project.

So I'm thinking about pilgrimages--journeys, often with some degree of difficulty--to a special place in search of an experience of the Holy. I kind of love them. So much so that I will occasionally use the word to talk about simply going to inspiring places that aren't easy to reach. For instance, I used to say that Whole Foods was a pilgrimage for me. It's 45 minutes from my house, and once you navigate the directions and the traffic and the bad drivers, you find yourself in a place of wonder and ideas and hope.
(we'll leave out the part about the political ideology of the owner of the corporation, and the prices in that place...)

Now, of course, I work just 5 minutes from that Whole Foods. So my place of pilgrimage has become potentially ordinary.

And there's an interesting idea...what happens when the experience of wonder, of the holy, of inspiration, turns from something special and difficult to reach into something ordinary?

I know many would say that it makes it not special. This is the usual argument against weekly communion, for instance--that if we do it all the time, it's not special. But that's not quite true, is it? There are lots of special things that are made more special by their frequency, not less. Little-kid hugs, kitty snuggles, tv shows, movies we like to watch over and over, walks in the park, conversations with friends. Hopefully we do these things frequently enough that they become a part of us--like Taize music, where the melody and simple words are repeated so often that they become part of your unconscious prayer.

Maybe finding ways to bring a little something of the pilgrimage into the everyday is part of what it means to pray without ceasing?




another aside: I do value the idea of pilgrimage to holy places, and have participated in several and even led one. The pilgrimage in the Holy Land, or in the northern holy land of Scotland, or in Rome, have all been meaningful times in my life. I'm planning a Reformation pilgrimage to Germany and Switzerland even now. But still I wonder: can I bring the experiences I had in those places into my everyday awareness? And if not, is there value in that pilgrimage experience, or was it just another trip?)
coming down from the top of Mt. Sinai, toward St. Catherine's monastery--home of the burning bush


with a bunch of people seeking an experience--or any variety of experiences--on Iona


the arms of holy mother church (!?!?!)--from the top of St. Peter's Basilica


Sunday, January 27, 2013

off to soak up sun and knowledge and friendship and who knows what else!

Today after worship/annual meeting (yes, an all-in-one Sunday morning extravaganza, in which we place the work we do in the context of who we are as a church), I'm rushing off to the airport so I can spend some days here:


Well, okay, quite a bit of the days are actually spent in a conference room that looks just like any other conference room that is also used as a storage room. But still, the knowledge that the oasis is just a few decks away makes a big difference! As does the constant cleaning of my room, the many food options (none of which involve me cleaning up afterward!), the amazing friends new and old, and the 80 degree sunshine.

This year we're learning about writing, specifically writing prayers, as a spiritual practice. Can't wait.

See you in a week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"it seemed like a good idea...." --a Friday Five

Over at the RevGals we're being invited to ponder things that seemed fun, but weren't. I'm sure I have a whole list of those, but mostly I appear to have blocked out those memories. Ha!

Let's see...

Camping. I don't camp. I'm sure the whole tent-wilderness-bugs-stories-around-the-fire thing has its charms, but for the life of me I can't figure out what they are. Why not just have a fire and roast marshmallows someplace where you can go sleep in a bed afterward? (I probably had some kind of scarring tent experience at some point...the only camping I remember is going to summer camp (aside--I discovered there's a facebook group for people who went to the same Camp Fire Camp), where we slept in bunk beds in cabins. Though when I was maybe 8 or 9 my bluebird group went to spend a night in the 3-sided cabin, open to the bugs and bears wilderness. I'm sure that was a thrill. In high school I went to music camp, which is the same idea but with rehearsals and practicing instead of archery and polar bear swims)

Almost any of my adult summer enrichment activity ideas...like one summer I took ballet class for adult beginners. supposedly. Except everyone else in there was a dancer using the class to augment their workout. I cried like a little girl either during or after every class for 7 weeks. I was 27. (aside: I'm starting today one of those ideas that couldn't fit into the summer, so is becoming a winter activity...this afternoon I'm taking my first ever horseback riding lesson. whether or not this is an actual good idea or a never-again idea remains to be seen.)

Just about anything involving change in the church. It's always so much harder than it sounds...

Cake decorating. I know that's supposed to be fun, but seriously? It's a pretty stressful, detail-oriented, tiring process. I'm glad for people who have that gift, because I'm not doing it. If you get a cake from me, it'll be baked from a box mix and you'll be lucky to have canned frosting spread over the top. And it'll probably be Funfetti, because that is one thing that sounds awesome AND lives up to its potential.

Google Plus. (haha!)

And you? what are some things that seemed like a good idea, had so much potential for awesome, could have been the most fun ever...but now you know to never do again?




Saturday, January 19, 2013

Piles of Presents--a sermon for Ordinary 2C


Rev. Teri Peterson
Piles of Presents
1 Corinthians 12.1-11
20 January 2013, Ordinary 2C

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles,
to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, 
to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

~~~~~~~


I’d like you to take a moment to think about a favorite gift you have received. Maybe it was a birthday present, or it was wrapped in shiny paper under the Christmas tree. Maybe it was a surprise gift from a friend, or an experience someone took you on. What is your favorite present? No fair saying things like “my kids,” either!

Take a moment now to share with the person sitting next to you what your favorite gift was.


Would anyone like to share theirs for all to enjoy? 

(okay, I had a hard time choosing one, but it's my blog! lol)
Christmas 2005, my dad gave me a trip to Italy (I was living in Egypt, so it was close...) 
There were a number of awesome presents in this pile, including a Wii!

birthday 2012...awesome.




When I started thinking about this question, I realized that I have two categories of favorites. I love to receive gifts that I will use often—like my birthday VitaMix that gets used nearly every day, or my Christmas electric kettle now sitting in my office, waiting to make us all a nice cup of tea or cocoa. The other category of favorites is experiences—and this is my favorite kind of gift to give, for sure. I love being able to go places or do new things or take friends to do something they love—to share the time and experience together. This Christmas, for instance, I took my sister in law to see her favorite musical, and we had a great time. Last year my dad gave me tickets to Wicked for me and a few friends, so we could have an evening out together—a two-fold awesome gift!

Of course there’s another kind of gift too—the intangible kind. We may give someone the gift of time spent together, of a listening ear, of prayer, of a hug just when they need it most. We may treasure the day we received someone’s casserole of love, or their silent presence in a hospital room, or their hope carrying us along when we had none to spare.

And we have all received gifts from God, too, through the Spirit. We may not want to recognize them, or we may insist we have none, or we may hope for one gift when really we’ve been given another. We may think our natural abilities and the skills we’ve developed are our gifts. We may wish we could return the gifts God gives us for something easier or more fun or more in line with what we want. But the reality is that, unlike Santa—who asks what we want—God tells us what God wants, and gives us the tools—not the treats of Santa Clause’s sleigh—to accomplish God’s vision.

God’s vision can often be summed up in just one word: transformation. We are to be transformed, and so to be a part of transforming the world into the kingdom of God. When we use the gifts God gives, we can’t help but be changed, even very slowly, into the people God calls us to be…and then we can’t help but be agents of grace, of justice, of peace, of hope, of love—the things that truly change the world. This is precisely why the Spirit’s gifts are given—for the building up of the body. We are not gifted with faith in order to rejoice in our own strength of will for becoming so faithful—we are gifted with faith in order that we might put it into action for the common good. We are not gifted wisdom or discernment or the ability to teach or sing or communicate with many different people only so we can delight in our abilities. Those gifts are for the purpose of building up the kingdom of God in the here and now.

There is a saying that has become a bit of a cliché, but is true anyway: “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.” That’s what these gifts are about—they are the tools God gives us for the calling God has for us. Which means that one way we can start figuring out who God calls us to be in this new time in this place is to look at what presents are being piled up among us. The Spirit’s gift-giving habits change throughout our lives as our calling changes. The Spirit blows where she will, after all, and who knows where God might call us next! Our gifts may lead us to ministries that would not be our first choice. Our combination of gifts as a church community may mean we are called to things we can’t even imagine right now. It’s exciting, but also scary! There are so many unknowns, so many uncomfortable possibilities, so many challenges—but that’s what gifts are for! This pile of presents is here so that we can navigate the new adventure God has in store for us.

So I invite you to spend some time pondering—not talking to God, just listening and thinking and wondering—what do you think God has given you? It could be something on this list Paul gave us this morning, or something on his list in Romans 12, or it could be something else entirely—the gift of humor, of music, of compassion, of wonder, of making phone calls, of drawing or sewing or cooking. Just make a list of all the gifts God has given you. Once you have a list, look at it and wonder with God what that list might reveal about who God is calling you to be and what God is calling you to do. Check with others whether they see those gifts in you—we are Presbyterians, after all, which means we do our best discerning in community! Maybe even wonder together about what this set of gifts might mean for God’s church in this place. Who are we called to be, and what part of God’s vision for the world are we called to carry out? Our gifts are the best place to start that conversation, because there’s one with your name on it, and they are always given to us for a reason.

Let’s start opening that pile of presents!

May it be so. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

a view of the water: a sermon for Baptism of the Lord


Rev. Teri Peterson
A View of the Water
Luke 3.15-22, Isaiah 43.1-7
13 January 2013, Baptism of the Lord

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

But now thus says the Lord,
   
he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   
I have called you by name, you are mine. 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   
and the flame shall not consume you. 

For I am the Lord your God,
   
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.

I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
   
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
   
nations in exchange for your life.

Do not fear, for I am with you;
   
I will bring your offspring from the east,
   
and from the west I will gather you; 

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
   
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
   
and my daughters from the end of the earth— 

everyone who is called by my name,
   
whom I created for my glory,
   
whom I formed and made.’


I wore a white cardigan too, obv. it was chilly.
This is the dress I wore when I was baptized. It was April 25th, 1999—so this dress has been hanging in my closet in 8 different houses for 14 years. It doesn’t fit, of course, nor is it my style anymore. But it hangs in my closet nonetheless, a daily reminder of that day.

I almost said “a daily reminder of that day I did something that changed my life.” But that’s not exactly true, is it? I didn’t baptize myself. I didn’t proclaim myself to be a child of God forever. I didn’t walk by myself down the aisle and hear the welcome of a community that called me one if its own. Even Jesus didn’t baptize himself—the verbs are passive. When Jesus “had been” baptized. When I “was” baptized. It’s something that happens TO us—something God does.

God says “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Remember that in the ancient world, and still today in some cultures, a name had incredible power. To know someone’s name was to have power over them—to speak someone’s name was to exert control. This is one of the reasons why our Jewish brothers and sisters do not speak, or even write, the name of God. It’s why the Hebrew scriptures leave out the vowels in God’s name—so no one would accidentally say it when reading or praying or copying a scroll. And God says, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” We can’t keep any secrets from God—we are already known as we truly are, known in all our deep dark secrets and all our potential and all our wonder. And the One who knows us still insists that we are a treasured possession—not something to be cast aside, not something to be forgotten or put away, but loved.

Of course, the Israelites to whom the prophet Isaiah spoke may not have been feeling the love lately. They’d spent decades in exile, removed from their land, their homes, their temple, their language, their comfort foods. They felt abandoned, lost at the back of one of God’s unused bottom shelves. I suspect many of us have felt something similar before. As if God has wandered off and forgotten us at the mall, or left us at the campsite and gone home with all the cooler kids. That feeling may have come in the midst of grief, or illness, or uncertainty about the future. I suspect there are moments of a pastoral transition that feel a little like exile—why are we out here all alone, and why is it taking so long to find our way?

And yet God speaks: I have called you by name, you are mine. You are my beloved. I will be with you.

Whenever we read an account of Jesus’ baptism, there’s always some wondering about that voice. Was he the only one to hear it? Or did the voice boom out from the clouds for all to hear? It’s unclear. But I like to think that the voice was for him…and that everyone else heard one too. Coming up out of the water, giving thanks and praising God, a still, small, yet unmistakable voice in each ear: John, Mary, Joanna, Levi, Kate, Steve…You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. You are precious in my sight.

Because that’s what baptism is about—it’s not a way we earn God’s love, it’s a way we experience God’s love. It’s not about what we do, it’s about what God does. God proclaims, and marks, and calls…all in a few drops of water.

Whenever someone is baptized, especially when a child is baptized, in the Reformed tradition, the congregation makes promises. We promise to "guide and nurture, in word and deed, through love and prayer, teaching and encouraging them to know and follow Christ." Because baptism isn’t the end of the story, any more than this dress is the last one I ever wore. It’s the beginning of a story—a story of God and God’s people, together, making the world into the kingdom of God. We don’t just drink from the stream of living water ourselves, we fill up a cup and offer that water to others. We don’t just walk beside the still waters and lie down in the green pastures, we look for ways that all might know an abundance of peace. We don’t just draw water from the well, we run and bring the others to the well too.

It’s easy to say “we will” when there’s a cute baby at the font. Easy to smile and think how wonderful it is to have young people in our midst. It’s less easy to actually fulfill that promise. Sometimes the practicalities of guiding and nurturing, through word and deed, love and prayer…well, they’re messy and demanding practicalities, often inconvenient. Sometimes it might mean waking up early to teach Sunday School, or staying up late at a youth group lock-in, or risking an honest conversation with a young person, or reaching out to pull a child into your pew so their overwhelmed parents can worship for a moment. It will always mean continuing your own Christian education and deepening your own spiritual life, because you can’t offer a cup of cold water from a dry well. We who make those promises need a constant view of the water just as much as the newly baptized will. It’s easy to forget who we are—beloved—and who we are called to be—the hands and heart and feet and voice of God in the world.

God calls us by name…and hopes we’ll come running, answering the call. Baptism is our common call to join in the mission God is doing in the world. It’s our call into beloved community and beloved service. You’ll notice that Jesus didn’t get baptized and then sit on the riverbank for three years. He prayed, and then he got to work teaching, healing, and showing us what life abundant looks like. Even in Isaiah we aren’t called just for kicks—we’re called by name to bring God glory. And as we know from the greatest commandment, what most brings glory to God is when we love our neighbors and God and ourselves all in the same breath—every breath.

No one said it would be easy, of course. If it were, God wouldn’t have needed to say “when you pass through the waters” or “when you walk through the fire.” But God will be with us even when life seems overwhelming, offering us a view of the water that matters.

Martin Luther used to remind himself of his baptism in the bath—when he washed his hair he would pause a moment, hand on his head, to say “I am baptized.” It was a way of remembering who he really was and what he was really called to do. My dress functions in much the same way—each day when I look in my closet I see it there and remember, not what I have done, but what God has done and who God calls me to be. It helps me live in view of the water, rather than in view of the dozens of other competing claims the world tries to make on my identity and life.

Maybe you have something that helps improve your view of the water. Maybe there’s room for a morning shower ritual in your day. Maybe you haven’t been to these particular waters yet, but you know that God calls to you through every water in every time and place. Water is the stuff of life, and of life abundant. Whenever we see it, drink it, offer a cup to someone else, we remember who we are and who God calls us to be: beloved, God’s hands in the world.

Today we celebrate and remember. And so you are invited, no matter where you are on this journey of life and faith, to come to the water and improve your view. At the font, use the water to make the sign of the cross on the palm of the person next to you—ask their name, if you don’t know it, and tell them: “you are God’s beloved, called to be Christ’s hands in the world.” Then let them do the same for you. As we come to the water, we lift our voices in sung prayer to God, the wellspring of life.



And all God’s people say Amen.

silence, part 2

I've been thinking more about this whole sore-throat-lost-voice thing.

One of the things that's weird about it is that I have no other symptoms.

One of the things that's probably not weird, in retrospect, is that I think I knew it was coming. On Wednesday I could already tell that my voice was not good, and that I should probably be resting it. Instead I pushed to participate in conversations in a variety of contexts, including some where I had to try harder in order to be heard.

In other words, I pushed past a limit my body was telling me I'd reached, and expected everything to be fine.

Unsurprisingly, everything's not fine.

I suppose there really is a lesson for my first week as a solo pastor in there: those limits are there for a reason. cross them at your peril. Listen to your body and your spirit. It's okay to stop, because doing everything now means being out of commission later.

You would think I would have learned that long before now, but apparently context is everything. :-)

Now I'm trying to figure out just what the lesson in here is where preaching is concerned. (I have some ideas.) Even as I pray desperately for my voice to return before tomorrow morning.

Friday, January 11, 2013

silence

This will come as no surprise to most of you:

I like to talk.

(whenever you want to stop laughing at the obvious will be fine....I'll wait...)

This week I've been struck by some kind of throat plague--my throat hurts like crazy and my voice has basically disappeared. Everyone keeps telling me to rest my voice and drink tea etc etc etc.

Well, I'm all over the tea, the honey and lemon, the soup, the excessive amounts of water, etc.

I am NOT all over vocal rest. I've been at home for two days now without talking and it is super weird. It turns out that when I'm at home I talk to my cats, and every time I want to talk to them I catch myself and try not to. It also turns out that I hum out loud more than I realized (sorry everyone around me). I also talk to inanimate objects, podcasts, and food I'm cooking.

Being silent is super weird. And difficult. I'm tempted to give this post the label "tragedy"except I think that might be just a little bit *too* melodramatic, even for me.

(I'm sure this is where those of you who go on 30 day silent retreats have many things to say about the value of keeping your voice silent. go ahead.)

Not that I think there's no value in silence--on the contrary, I love silence. In the sense that I can't really stand background noise--I'm not the person with music playing all the time or with the TV on even when I'm not watching it. I don't listen to music and read at the same time. I don't watch TV while blogging or reading the news. I do often listen to podcasts while doing the dishes or cooking, but only if I don't have to read a recipe.

I have plenty of background noise in my head, and it turns out I may actually BE  the background noise most of the time.

It's not that I necessarily have anything to say, only that I like to have the ability to say it when it comes to mind. And that's where I'm tripped up this week. For two days now I've kept my mouth shut, and have thought lots of things without saying them. For a verbal processor, this is very odd.

I can't say that I've necessarily noticed that my thoughts are deeper than they are when I say them out loud. Or that I've been more productive (okay, let's be honest--the only thing I've been more productive about is making tea). But I have noticed how often I tend to vocalize things, even when no one is around to listen. I've noticed when my tendency is to shout at the commenters on internet news stories, or to sweet talk the kitties, or to say out loud every thought I have about soup, or to hum the latest song running through my head (which runs from classical to broadway to hymns to whatever is on Just Dance 4...).

the first step is always just to notice, right? Presumably the next step is a still small voice, a whisper of the Spirit, that makes itself heard in my silence.



(note to said Spirit: it would be awesome if you would whisper a sermon, and also bring back my voice in time to preach it...)

Monday, January 07, 2013

first day

Remember when you were a kid (or, if you have kids, remember back in August...) and your parents would make you stand in front of the front door of the house and have your first-day-of-school photo taken? Maybe you picked out an awesome first-day outfit (though I confess I don't exactly remember any first-day-of-school-clothing dramas). If nothing else, the photo was like a visual catalog of growing up. I kind of wish all my first-day-of-school pics were combined into one awesome collage or something.

Anyway, today's my first day at a new church. I have no idea what I'm going to wear. But I do know what my office looks like! So, enjoy this, because I promise that it will never be this clean ever ever again.

those photos are of my mom as a little girl, watching over my desk...

I don't think I'll be buying any more books, cuz these are full.

the one time you'll see the top of this desk...possibly forever.

There's a lot that's weird about a pastoral transition. I know it's weird for the church, but no one ever really told us how weird it would be for the pastor. You become part of a community, a family--with traditions, shared memories, hopes and dreams and fears. You are invited into the hardest and the most joyous moments of people's lives. And then, with 6 weeks notice, you're not. It's extremely weird. And then, to compound the weirdness, you go and meet 100 new people and do the same thing all over again. We carry these ties, these memories, these hopes and fears and dreams and relationships, over a whole career. We hold sacred and silly moments, for one community after another. And that is beautiful. And bizarre, if you think about it.

But there's so much promise, just as at the beginning of a school year. New outfit, new office, new photo, new adventures.