Today I celebrate my one year installation anniversary serving as pastor of Elvira Zion Lutheran Church. I remember the celebration fondly because it was the final step in something I had waited for so long. I’ve learned a lot in my first year as an ordained leader. I’m no where near done learning, I hope to never be done learning. But, for now, here are some of my thoughts on what I’ve learned while “taking stalk.”
1. I really am called to do this. That may sound strange, but I waited for so long to receive a call that I started to wonder if God really wanted me to be a Pastor. As I have walked with this amazing group of people this last year, my call has been affirmed over and over and over again. I’m so grateful.
2. I had/have no idea what I don’t know. You know that saying “I don’t know what I don’t know”? Yep….that was me for a good portion of my first year. It is often assumed that a pastor, not just me, knows what has happened in a congregation in the past or how “we’ve always done things.” I didn’t. I often learned on the fly, which was fine (since that is most like my learning style). But, I am still learning a lot of what I don’t know.
3. I know nothing about building maintenance. Thank God I am surrounded by very capable men and women who do. But, I had a lot of conversations this year about sewers, boilers, how to capture rodents, floors, painting, etc… None of these things are in my wheelhouse. But, I am still grateful that I was part of the conversation. I’m still learning and so far, haven’t had to plunge a toilet while wearing my alb. Finding the dead squirrel, however, that’s a different story.
4. Taking an accounting class while in seminary would have done me worlds of good. Thank God I have a treasurer and financial secretary who are very patient with me and are more than happy to explain figures and spending and accounts to me. Thank God they also both want to be as transparent with numbers, budget, and spending as I do.
5. Funerals never get easy. Funerals are part of what I do. In fact, it is probably one of the moments where I get to encounter the “Holy” the most. That said, it doesn’t get easier with time. Walking with a family in grief (sometimes in great grief) is hard. When you see people that you love hurting, it’s difficult. Speaking of…
6. I had no idea how capable of love I would become. I consider myself a pretty loving person. I am affectionate and I’m not shy about it. However, in a year, I have grown to love these people more than I ever thought was possible. That’s not to say that they’re not lovable; it’s more of a reflection on my ability to love. They make me laugh, they challenge me, they accept me, they love our daughter, they know how to have fun, and most importantly, they know what it means to be Christ to me and to one another.
7. Thank God for my secretary. Seriously. This woman saves my sanity quite often. She is reliable and efficient. Most importantly, she has become a trusted colleague. Speaking of…
8. Thank God for my colleagues. I have amazing colleagues both near and far. My text study group that meets weekly has been a safe place for me, has helped me to grow, and has been a place of a lot of laughter.
9. It is really hard (I mean, really) to be a full time pastor, a full time mom, and a full time wife. I rarely seem to get all of these roles balanced. I am still learning what it means to have all of these vocations at the same time. I remind myself to be gentle with myself if one of these roles suffers because of the other (but try to not make a habit out of it).
10. Self-care is crucial…and I usually suck at it. I am horrible about putting myself first. I hope to make this more of a goal for my second year. Many aspects of my health suffered off and on this past year because I neglected my self-care.
11. I really do love rural ministry. When I first entered seminary, I thought that I wanted to serve an urban, inner-city ministry with an outreach to the homeless, HIV, LGBT, etc… population. And perhaps, someday, a long time from now, that will be the kind of ministry I am called to. But for now, there is something lovely about where I am. I can’t say I’ve grown accustomed to the “smell of money” but really, does anyone ever grow accustomed to that??
12. I am busier than I ever thought I’d be. At first, it would be easy to think “it’s a small church, there won’t be enough to keep me busy.” That’s not true. That’s pretty far from the truth, actually. In fact, i think I’ve spent the entire year feeling behind on things I need to do.
13. The Holy Spirit is amazing. Every time I get to preside at the table or do a baptism, I get the chills. Being trusted to be Christ’s hands and feet in these instances is really humbling and something I am honored to do. Every time.
14. What I do is really fun. For some people, it may not seem that way. But seriously, I love what I do. I can’t believe I get paid to do this (for the record, I appreciate the fact that I get paid to do this–it helps me pay student loans). Is every moment fun? Nope. But, every moment is filled with God and that’s pretty powerful.
15. God is always here making all things new. God doesn’t need me–but it’s nice to know they’ll keep me around for a little while longer.
I think that’s it for now. I’m sure this list could go on and on and on. I am looking forward to year 2 and learning even more about the people I serve, the God we all serve together, and myself.