Tea and Theology- or, My Life after Pastoring
So, I haven’t touched on this issue in a while and it’s partially out of neglect for my blog, and partially because it’s a bit of a touchy subject sometimes. But here we are, and I know you all love reading about my personal life, so here we go.
I stopped pastoring for many reasons, none of them include me hating the Church or thinking all Protestants are hell-bound heretics. I think I stopped pastoring mostly as a matter of integrity.
Here’s what I mean, I was a good leader, in my own opinion. I worked hard, studied and spoke well, and developed some hopefully lasting effects on my previous church. However, I didn’t ever see eye-to-eye with them. It was a job. One where my faith had to be hidden, and where my allegiances to Rome and the Church Fathers had to be kept secret because a different Tradition had superseded the Catholic ones in my church.
I served well, and even saw lasting effects in my kids and in the adults I taught on Sunday evenings, but it was a job. I know that at my alma mater, the spiritual advisors were not often the people with the titles but that weird kid on the floor who just seemed to know God. I was one of those guys, at least I’ve been told I was one of those guys. The program tried to capitalize on me, but I always preferred my indirect approach, my counsel at two in the morning in the living room for our dorm, where we could sip coffee and talk about real life. I never joined that program.
I was incredibly shocked when I became a pastor. It’s not that I didn’t have the gift for it, I just had never intended it, in my first year of overzealous Christian efforts I thought I might sell all my belongings and start a worldwide ministry in Asia or something, but after that first year, I came back to where God was calling me.
I have always been the go-to-guy, but never the pastoring type. I love answering questions, I love talking about God, but I don’t know that pastoring was my calling. I’m still thinking about priesthood in the Eastern Catholic rite, but that’s neither here nor there. I have lots of questions and few answers. Getting back to the point, I feel I never really retired. Sure I let behind a title, which some people still use. Some call me Reverend, which always makes me laugh or blush or otherwise shy, and some use pastor which still makes me giggle, but is a bit easier to stomach. I left behind a title, but pastoring is forever. I still minister to my friends, to my colleagues, to the people I work with.
Thursday I went on a sales call for my new job, and I had a great time. Earlier that day i had been reading Pope John Paul II’s thoughts on the subject of work in his book The Way to Christ and I loved what he had to say. He basically said that work is a means to an end and never an end. It can be seen as providing something useful to those who receive our work. We can and must see our clients as humans, as beneficiaries of the services we provide in whatever work we do. He said that work can humanize us to the extent that we allow it to humanize those we come into contact with.
I wrote my girlfriend, the Secret Vatican Spy and told her as much before I met with my clients, and that changed the entire tone of the meeting in my mind. I had had this vision more or less in mind, but with the words of the Holy Father I was set. I knew what it meant, and I knew that it would have positive effects on my work life. My boss has the same view, he never pushes a sale, we are guests and servants, ministering with the work of our hands and the talents imparted to us to help renovate homes. I believe i what I do because I see the help that it can bring. I love that.
Another thing that I have been working on is attending my friend’s Tea and Theology which is an informal seminar on all things theological. Last time we talked about ecumenism. Last night we talked about the relevance and importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in daily life and how it applies not just as an idea of God, but how it can become part of our worldview.
The tea and theology group really helps me be in community outside the Catholic sphere which can be helpful in maintaining a hierarchy of priorities. I think the Tea and Theology group has invited me to participate in acts of charity, answering questions and testing my Catholic faith without being attacked. It’s a safe environment and one where there’s an orthodox leaning friend, a guy who grew up calvinist and is now as he terms himself “post-protestant” since he feels like he’s not actively protesting the Catholic church, a Charismatic Evangelical and another charismatic who is attending RCIA classes at another parish here in town. The intra-faith perspectives are really helpful and the pastoral bent that these talks sometimes take is definitely helpful in the transition.
I may not be a pastor in title anymore, despite the fact that I guess I’m still legally such, it’s comforting to have other things to do in the Church. I love my friends, I love my girlfriend and the way she facilitates this sometimes arduous transition. I mean, I miss my people, I miss the intensity of the pastoral life, I miss the projects and the deadlines, and the frustrations, the failures and fears. I miss the budget meetings sometimes, and the stale smell of that southern baptist sanctuary, i miss the lovely people, and the way they loved me.
My life after pastoring though, is one of peace. I have rest, I have struggles too, and difficulties, not least of which has been actually settling in to all the changes. But in the long and short of it, I have rest, I have peace. i have time to meditate and to study, I have time to think and to feel, and to live. I appreciate the silences, and the sunsets more, and I have found that when life makes no sense, and I don’t have the answers, I’m part of a larger family of faith.
My priest is awesome, he’s welcoming, and encouraging, our deacon is a thoughtful and quiet man, my sponsor is the most humble man to ever live, after Jesus; my girlfriend is a portrait of Christian courage and stands strong for family values and supports me at every turn. My friends have been really supportive, my friend who grew up Calvinist is a wonderfully thoughtful man, and he’s extremely encouraging. I love everything about where I am.
Sometimes I miss being a pastor, and then I realize I never really left anything but the title. I have retired my rebellions against the Roman congregation, and come into the fullness of faith. We are all sacramental manifestations of the Lord until he comes. I still help, I still do everything I did before becoming a professional pastor. I was a pastor before the title, and remain pastoral after the title has left me. I just do so with a bigger Church and bigger purpose in mind, and I don’t need to invent the answers. I love being able to turn to the saints openly, and to be humble enough to seek answers with instead of for my friends. I love being able to share in Christ’s work where I am right now, especially since it involves tea, and theology.