It's been over one year now since I left traditional ministry. And folks say to me all the time, "When are you going back to the church?"
I don't know how to answer other than to say that we need to think about the church in new ways.
Why do we always think about church in terms of buildings and ministers with retirement plans and pensions? Why do we always think of church in terms of who is the staff listed on the back of the Sunday morning bulletin?
And no I don't think I am not going back anytime soon to what you mean by church.
These are the facts: a year ago, I left a weekly pulpit, weekly pastoral care responsibilities and ties to one place, but what I gained in this transition myself.
I said it. I gained myself. I still can't believe that I had the courage to make this leap into the unknown last year. I did have a retirement plan with a denominational board. As much as I've always had a rebellious streak, I've always liked following the rules too.
Yet, I know this past year has been a turning point for me. I think 10 or 20 years from now I'll look back on that year when I was 33 as a time when everything changed. Even with the mid-year moaning and groaning and "what am I doing with my life?" depression I went through (for y'all who lived with me through all of this, thank you!), this move into the unknown was and is a great decision.
The longer I live in this new reality, the longer I know I am not alone and there's other ministers out there like me who want to make such a transition too. I'm gaining a new community.
I recently read Anne Lamott's new book, Stitches. And as I read, I was struck by Lamott's narration of how she quit what she called "her last real job" at the age of 21. She said when she stopped working as a writer at a magazine and called it "the moment when I lost my prestige on the fast track."
When I left the church a year ago, this happened to me too, I think. There were even emails that said: "What are you doing? Why don't you settle down and get a new church in Oklahoma?" (As an aside, I have yet been invited to preach anywhere yet in Oklahoma City-- so even if I wanted a new job in the town where my husband resides mostly, there aren't a lot of opportunities). But who really needs a fast track? I'm still wondering.
Lamott goes on to say about her transition to a non-traditional writing life: "I started to get found, to discover who I had been born to be, instead of the impossibly small package, all tied up tightly in myself that I had agreed to be."
Spot on for me too! These days I am learning and re-learning and then learning some more about the minister, the writer and the human being that I am and was created to be. It's wonderful freedom. I now get to dream without some box of what I think other people want me to be holding me back.
And so in all of this settling down to a new kind of life, I knew my blog-- a medium for so much of this kind of heart-felt communication and exchange needed a makeover. So here it is, and here's my stance. I'm not going back. I am a preacher on a plaza.
As a preacher on the plaza, my new website can give you a tour about the ways in which I'd love to connect with you, your church or non-profit.
I think the conversations we've had and will continue to have are a part of creating what doesn't exist for other ministers, writers, dreamers, poets and businesswomen. This is it. We're on the edge of something beautiful. I just know it.