This past Sunday, we began an new sermon series and I challenged the congregation to find 100 things between last Sunday and this coming Sunday that they were grateful for. If you haven't read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, it is amazing.
The first sermon in the series was called "Choosing Gratitude" and I've titled the series "Gratitude: Our Journey to Joy."
It was a good day and I felt the Spirit moving. We closed the service praying a prayer I had written earlier this year.
I had the wonderful joy to visit with the chair of SPRC from my last church. She was in the area and came to visit me. My eyes just filled with tears to see her! It really brought me so much joy! Here is someone who knows me, who has journeyed with me, who has seen me become a mom and grow as a pastor. Nancy is a dear friend and I love her.
My house is still a wreck and have not fully settled in. I wish we had had like 2 weeks to just unpack and make this our home. The Guest Room is crazy... that is the dumping ground. In the Kitchen dishes were everywhere and laundry piled by the door to the laundry room. She didn't care. She came to see me.
I had hoped to use these past two days of the Hurricane being in the house to take care of some of these things- including numerous Thank You Notes I have been trying to get done. Yesterday (Monday) I did finish my newsletter for church, cleaned a ton, made a yummy meal for my family, cleaned the girls room, organized the bookshelf, and we all played Chutes and Ladders as a family, bathed girls, read a ton of books, and then happily enjoyed watching TV with my husband for the first time in who knows.... Today I was tired... and we have rested a lot as a family. I have had little motivation to do otherwise. I have been tired. I am not sick- I have been sick twice in my time here so far- so sick that all I wanted was to sleep and drink OJ. But today I am not sick, I just felt tired.
I had grand hopes for today. The kids are still out of school because of the Hurricane (although it did not do much damage in our area thankfully). Today we've had a puppy pile of rest and watching cartoons - me, Kevin, girls, and dogs....
I feel guilty about days like this. Lately I have felt like I must constantly be productive. I have so much to do. Constantly. I know we all do. I could have called members and recent visitors today, I could have worked on sermons, bulletins, and sermon planning, I could of worked on writing notes, and finally cleaning out the Guest room...
I make lists and lists and list. And I am usually someone constantly on the go. I usually also have a ton of energy.
But lately-- I guess it was last week... I just began to lose my zeal a bit.
I don't think I did all the things I was supposed to for those First 90 Days I have been going too fast- I didn't get through all the books (the books that tell you what you're supposed to do when you move churches) before I came here. I came with energy, joy, enthusiasm, love, positivity. I still have this. But I am a little tired.
Last week I began to realize that I just didn't have that zing... I have poured so much of myself out.
And I think that might be the problem....
While much of my energy comes from ministry- from the pouring out- from visiting, worship,, etc. The things that used to give me a great deal of energy .... I don't quite have in place here yet.
I led a great and wonderful team of Program Staff in a large church in my last appointment. We would creatively dream and create ministry led by the Holy Spirit. We were constantly engaged and collaborated.
Where I serve now- I work with wonderful and gifted staff-- who are all just about all part time. I only see them on particular days- Sundays usually.
I have a dedicated, kind, and great administrative assistant who I do see in the office.
But what I have found is that as an extrovert- I really miss the energy I get from being around people.
On Sunday Mornings at my last church I would likely connect with (in some form) 200- 300+ people... I worked with a staff of 20 daily - and engaged creatively with about 5-10 folks daily in planning and implementing ministry.
Here- while I do have a wonderful staff- And I have incredible laity, who for the most part, seem excited about reaching out to the community and being vital... it is me. Solo Pastoring - so far- seems super isolating. I am sure it doesn't have to be... just for this super extrovert... I've gone from extremes. And it could be more extreme... I could be in a very rural appointment. But it is just me-- it comes down to me. In a large church- while it comes down at the end of the day to the Sr Pastor- you do have a staff to engage in ministry with you. You're not alone on a float in the ocean. You're on ship with a crew.
Last week I also encountered some negativity... and that happens of course. But it did stuff to me that usually doesn't happen. I can usually bounce back pretty fast. This church is young- relatively. They celebrated their 55th Anniversary last year. And yet there is still animosity around certain issues. And folks grumble about this or that (like in every church) saying things like, "Well its been like this for 20, 30, x number of years.... " And I'm here seeking to bring light, to bring clarity, understanding, seeking to find ways we can work together and move forward into God's vision for our church.
I have just had realized in the last week that the things that fed me daily-- I don't really have here...yet.
And I think its making me tired.
And I think its making me sad.
And I think I really have to do something about it.
So- I found a Spiritual Director- and we meet this Thursday.
I asked for prayer through Facebook Groups and friends.
My husband and I have prayed.
I do feel like I am supposed to be here- Yes- this is where God has called me.
And Yes God is present.
I guess that should be enough.
But I when I go to get things done in my office-- I just feel overwhelmed, tired, drained.
I feel like I got more done in my last appointment.....
but it wasn't just me doing it-- I was working with this team.
I really want to learn what is "normal"? You know? What is a normal pace? What is balance...here?
My children have also not slept well here...yet-- we have a hard time getting to bed. Perhaps we're still seeking a rhythm after summer.... but they're not asleep till 9 or even 10 on some nights!
They used to be asleep by 8 or 8:30!
There were so many things to create order around, systems, accountability, clarity, around when I arrived.
I wanted so much to get to know everyone and start building relationships.
And its like I just dove in.
Our first day- the minute the truck arrived I was over at church because VBS was going on.
I went over, said hello, and did an opening prayer at VBS welcoming others... and myself there.
And.... I haven't really stopped.
I realized last week- with the exception of our vacation to WI this summer-- I have not had a full and complete day off. To do only what I wanted. To rest. To read. To study. To pray. To watch TV. Or whatever I may want....On every day off- I tried to unpack, make pastoral calls, squeeze in a hospital visit, plan worship, write sermons, send emails... and still it feels like not enough....
Why not enough? because there is so much that needs to get done.
And I know- I can hear all the wise folks saying- Beth- there will always be more to do....
I need to hear Jesus tell me this. And he does.
When the disciples got wound up and objected to a woman annointing Jesus. They wanted to sell the perfume for money to give to the poor - Jesus says, "The poor will be with you always."
I feel like that is Jesus telling me- "Ministry(sermons, bulletins, planning, visioning, phone calls, emails, administration, conflict management, etc) - laundry- cleaning- unpacking- ) this will be with you always.
So maybe it is okay that today- I have barely left the our bedroom-- slept, cuddled with kids, dogs, and husband..... and yet I could use another few days like that... just no agenda days. Which is kind of crazy for me--- because I feel like used to be able to go go go and still be filled....
Transition is hard.
That's why it was so good to see Nancy. She just ekept saying, "Beth! You've only been here a little over 3 months!" (I arrived at the beginning of July- next week will be 4 months).
Nancy was so affirming and loving and encouraging. Even now tears come. I feel like that visit will keep me going for awhile...
I was telling her about the sermon series and the challenge to the congregation to list 100 things they were grateful for. Nancy gave me another challenge. She said, "I want you to list all that you've accomplished here so far." Of course- it isn't ME doing it all-- It is God- and it is God working through the people. But a lot has happened since I've been here that was not here before I came. I see this as fruit of what God is doing through me and us. Not because of me-- but Because of God. I do think that God has used me here. And its not even been 4 months. I cannot likely keep this pace.
And I do not think others expect this pace.
I just don't know what is normal. I feel sometimes like I'm being watched to see how good I am..... (this really reveals a lot I know) And I'm not sure I mean it just like that... but I do feel like some folks still aren't sure maybe, or just want to see how I'll do... I need to stop feeling like I need to prove my worthiness. And I need to simply keep my focus on what God has called me to do in this time. I have actually had one member say to me, "We'll just have to see what you do."
For instance- a member stopped by today- we had an appointment to look at banners in the church today- but I had forgotten b/c of the storm.... and I felt guilty for hanging around with my girls watching cartoons. I had been caught not being productive and that felt like a failure. (whew- I got a lot to work on, huh? :)
So here I am trying to do what Nancy suggested:
Things that have happened since I came July that I either started or helped get going:
-8 new small groups are now happening in the church (New Sunday School class started after interested folks met with me- younger adults called Just Coffee, started PoLO's (Parents of Little Ones), new small group for children- Little Ones, Starting Point Class, Baptism Class, new small group in a home bound members home, new small group starting to do an advent study in 3 weeks -have met with and equipped leader, after preaching on Intentional Faith Development one member felt called to start a Tai Chi class).
- Children's Choir resurrected/ re-started with order.... When Little Ones meet on Wednesday night part of their time is singing- Children Choir is singing in church Once a month.
-Did a sermon series on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations - sending out weekly devotion by email.
-Also began Pastor's Email each week to share upcoming events-- email included links to events, Facebook, etc.
-Worked with Stewardship Committee to do a Stewardship Campaign that worked well with the 5 Practices called "This is My Church." Found volunteers to film and edit videos of folks in church sharing why they come to church, what they love about church, what they hope for their church. Each week of the sermon series we affirmed our faith and mission by saying together the "This is My Church" poem and celebrating what God has done, God is doing, and what God will continue to do.
Had the Stewardship Committee over for dinner where I cooked and they came to the house.
Stewardship Committee also has sent out 2 letters so far for the campaign. Will send out thank you letters and we have a Christmas Letter.
Celebration Sunday was Oct 21 and we brought forth pledges and had a Celebration Lunch.
So far 42 pledges are in- same number as last year.
-Had the staff and their families over for dinner. Have a hope of doing this more often since we do not all gather together on a regular basis.
-Invited and met with most all staff one on one for a lunch or dinner. So that we could start getting to know each other.
-Brought order to the pay roll system. Folks now turn in time sheets to me, I approve, and administrative assistant felt relieved and supported.
-Met with all church leaders in first weeks and gave them resources available for them to know more about their role. Did this in a hope of equipping, resourcing, and supporting them. One chair told me "I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing. "
-Met with the Lay Leadership Team for the first time in several years to work on nominating for Charge Conference. We now do have someone for Evangelism - which I am calling Welcoming Team.
-My Treasurer shared that he wanted to resign after my first few weeks. I learned this the day before we left for vacation. He and I finally touched base on my cell phone driving through KY. I was super worried about him, why, how would this work out. He's hung on to get us through our audit for Charge Conference. Praise God! He mostly felt unequipped for the position and pushed into when he took it. He was a bit burnt out and tired. It looks like after having 5 no's I have a Treasurer! Praise God!
- I wanted to fix the website when I came and tried to that pretty soon. But I got hung up in details and have not had the time. I now have a volunteer willing to work on it and hopefully soon we'll cancel our expensive and not so good Ezekiel site and have a cheaper and beautiful wordpress site. But I've let go of the "when."
-Brought order and system to our way of preparing for Charge Conference. Just about all paperwork came turned in a month early. Still things to do in the last weeks before. Admin Assistant expressed joy about this as things were last minute in the past.
-Developed a plan for Children and Family Ministry- Now have a Sunday School Superintent, now take attendance, average for Sunday School (including all ages) is 30.
-Worked to bring together all teachers, youth director, etc. and created a Discipling Team - used to have a Council on Children and Youth - and brought all people together in one team who work on Intentional Faith Development. We met and planned for the fall and winter. Still need to meet more.
-Worked with volunteers to plan and implement our first ever Harvest Fest. They had done a Trunk or Treat in the past. This was a little more-- we offered a meal, crafts, activities, singing, devotion, movie, etc. People were quite skeptical-- we had 150 people come through. I got contacts for all. And have been working on follow up.
-Sermon and Worship Planning- Currently doing a Gratitude Sermon Series. Have planned-Advent Sermon series - several groups in the church will align small group studies around.
-Planning for an Advent Event where folks can come and do Advent Workshops (like make an advent wreath), have a pot luck dinner, do our Hanging of the Greens Service, and maybe gather for a family movie....Sat Dec 1
-Brought folks together for the biggest Church Clean Up day people say we've had-- we had 50 people there to clean up the church grounds and not just the same ole folks.
-Got a Sign Ministry going- folks are now changing the sign by the main road that says what the upcoming sermon will be. I did it myself for a few weeks until I could get it organized and not have some regular volunteers.
- When I walked around with the chair of the Property Committee I mentioned that I would love for us to have a Welcome Sign as you come into the church. Most folks enter into the front/ "back" door-- as the parking lot is located behind the church and the front of the church is on top of a hill that looks over a main highway. Most folks enter through the back door. A sign hung above the door that sad "Office and Sunday School Classrooms" and by the door to the Fellowship Hall a sign hung up that said "Fellowship Hall." Above the main door I wanted the first thing you see to say "Welcome to Bermuda Hundred UMC." I said, "This is my Vision for this someday." We were going around and making a list for the Clean Up Day--- and there were many things that we wanted but knew they were "someday." The next Sunday he and I and few other guys talked about the sign- what did I imagine, etc. The sign was hung up last week! It is beautiful!
-An Eagle Scout is doing a project to clean up a trail behind the Pavilion and create a prayer labyrinth!
-We had a Fall Kick Off with a bouncy house (generously donated by a member). We did not have the response I had hoped for- but it was a good event. We did get great response in the community for Harvest Fest :)
- I have visited probably 15 families and called probably 20. I had this thought that I'd visit everyone in my first couple months... So unrealistic! I have visited most of the homebound folks once and brought communion. One woman filled with tears, "In all these years you are the only pastor who has offered us communion." This made me sad, but glad that I was worshiping with them in their home.
-The Church Council used to only meet every other month. They have the SPRC meet from 6:00-6:45, Finance from then till 7 and Church Council till 7:30. We now have those meetings once a month. Finance even met twice in September to get ready for Charge Conference. I made and brought dinner b/c we tried to meet early and I wanted to extend hospitality.
-We've been having more children in worship- which means more are coming to Children's Church. Worked with the Children's Church volunteers to begin working on developing a worship format for the Children and space for them to learn Lord's Prayer, Apostles' Creed, Doxology, etc.
-When I arrived, the current nursery worker was not a good match. After consultation with SPRC, I let her go. We have since sought through word of mouth to find an effective and good fit for a nusery worker. Created a team to interview, and hired a new nursery worker who is working out well. (She's been here almost a month now).
-Right when I got the new nursery worker, my accompanist shared that she needed a 6 month leave of absence from Nov- May (advent and lent!). I went online to the conference website to begin advertising and found a musician seeking work! God is awesome. We were to meet yesterday- but the Hurricane has made us need to reschedule. I think this may be a good fit. We'll see!
-When I arrived the Pastor's Discretionary Account is a check book which the pastor writes the checks directly. The GCFA does not recommend this. There was little to no accountability around this. People were given checks directly, same made out to cash. I have created a policy around this and I do not give money for hotel stays, etc. We will help a utility bill, rent (given copy of lease and I speak directly with landlord- I have been conned on this before where two people - one is renter and another pretends to be landlord!), I have purchased some food cards and gas cards to have onsite (just ran out of these....) We are still flooded with assistance calls and I do refer to them local non-profits, but I now also have a policy to work from.
-Scouts-- I have done the invocation twice for our the HUGE cub scout troop that meets on Thursday nights. They did not have involvement from previous pastors (not that this matters for me so much... but it is a new thing). And met briefly with the Boy Scout leaders (they don't use email). My daughter wants to be a Daisy Scout and Kevin took the girls to the recruitment night meeting at the Elementary School (I had Church Council) and looks like he and I are now Assistant Troop Leaders and like we'll soon start a new Daisy Troop in my church! (Girl Scouts used to meet at the church - and there are a lot of stories going on as to why they were "kicked out") but we are starting over. My new phrase has been "We're rebuilding."
-Preschool- So we have a preschool that is separate- their own non-profit. There is a lot of history b/t preschool and church and the older generation of church tends to look at preschool as cost/ burden not ministry. There's a lot more to it- but that is the gist. There's not been a whole lot of connection between the two. There's often been a lot of blame. This is so wearing. Anyway- I was super excited about the Preschool. I have a daughter in the Preschool. I asked if I could do chapel. They said yes. This has been fun! The kids loved it! We've only had one time- we're doing once a month and we'll see if we can add more later on.... I love developing the relationships with the kids and the parents. Perhaps we'll do chapel more at some point. They are settling into their non profit status and the preschool has been there for 30 years but is just now its own non-profit and was started by an energetic, Spirit filled member. I am on their board and we've only had one meeting- which I had to miss b/c of a Conference leadership commitment.
I think that is the bulk of the things I have "started" and helped get going so far.
There's also been the regular pastor stuff-
I've had the joy to go with volunteers to feed the homeless in Petersburg twice. That was awesome.
The regular day to day stuff.
I've had one person in crisis continually and numerous assistance calls and been able to help folks with rent, utilities, etc.
Attended the regular meetings- UMW, UMM Fish Fry, etc..
We've also gone to events at my husbands church- 4th of July, Pastor Welcome dinners (2 pt charge), Harvest Fest, on
Conference meetings and responsibilities. Two Conference Committees and serving as a Class Coordinator for the current Provisional Class. This has brought a lot of joy to me! It is inspiring to be with them!
And there's also the stuff that isn't church-the joy of being a Mom
I've gotten to volunteer at Gracie's school in her class and will volunteer again soon.
I've been able to be home most days to pick her up from school, walk her home, help with homework, and snacks, and fix dinner.
I've been able to hang out with Sophia and pick her up from school, play, snack, read, etc
I have these daydreams every once in awhile of being a stay at home Mom... but I love being a Pastor... (usually)
I've decided to place a calendar that says "Where is the Pastor" outside my office door so folks can see where I am and what I'm doing.
I think this will be good especially as I now know I cannot be in the office all the time.... it is too quiet... for me to be productive. That may not make sense to some.... but I just get distracted... and cannot focus on the creative stuff. I have literally sat at my desk with tears streaming chatting on Facebook with friends seeking encouragement. I wouldn't do that at Panera. Of Course I will need to be in the office some... I just need to find ways to be around more people energy... when I'm left alone it doesn't feel so good. I focus on the wrong things...
I did work in the sanctuary last week for a morning to plan worship and work on the sermon/ bulletin. And that was really good. I just sat there in the floor surrounded by sacred space. Quiet, peaceful, and if I got distracted- I looked at Jesus.
Making this list feels a little strange-- it could sound boastful... but really it is just to let me know- Girl- you're good. You are doing what God called you to do.
When you read Paragraph 340 in the Book of Discipline it lists all that a pastor is supposed to do. When you are THE pastor doing this... it literally feels impossible.
And if you're not careful you'll try to do it ...all
and if you're like me-- you try for a while and then feel really tired...
Why am I like this?
I feel driven.
Not like - I am not driven in the way I want a lot of attention or a super big paycheck....
I actually feel driven because I feel this sense of urgency to share the Gospel... and to make disciples.
Seriously- I believe this-- its not just a thing to say to the Board of Ministry or your DS... I mean it.
I don't feel this way because I believe I have to save people from hell.
I feel like this because I think we all need to be saved from ourselves.
Which is kind of what I need now-- I need saving.
I need saving from my feelings of enoughness - I need saving from all that is pressing on me... I need saving from myself.
Some days I wish I could live in an intentional community where we had an ordered life of prayer, study, service, discipline-- left on my own I will just keep doing.... this is my fear anyway.
But in seminary when I talked with my husband about intentional communities he was like- no way- I can't walk around in my boxers that way! Lol but seriously... life is hard left on your own.
As a missionary, my life was marked by accountability with the 17 of those who were commissioned with me. Even though we were spread across the country we gathered at marked times. Perhaps it was all the Americorps paperwork I filled out....that constantly reminded me what I was doing and why. I worked with a great staff and friendships grew there that held me.
In seminary, our days were marked by a rhythm of worship, prayer, study, pot lucks, game nights. Such Joy in Community.
As a provisional elder- my covenant group helped mark my life with rhythm, worship, accountability. At the same time I worked with a large, excellent, effective, loving staff. We met every week, once a month for worship, prayed together regularly... I coordinated lots of that amongst the staff when I was there.
Yet here- I realize I have not created these support networks of accountability and prayer. Here, I have not yet developed a rhythm of prayer and worship. Not the way I had in my last appointment.
Of course that probably didn't happen there in 4 months either...I had 6 years to develop a balance there. And now I am starting over.
I am rebuilding.
Not only things in church.
But life for me too.
Thankfully, God is and expert at reclaiming, redeeming, restoration, rebuilding, resurrection, and the respiration of the Holy Spirit breathing in our lives. Awesome, Amazing, Awake God- Breathe in me! Let me slow down so I may be filled with your deep breaths. And let me breathe back.