I have been serving my first call since October 01, 2008. It has been a little over six months now. I have learned many things about myself and why I had no real idea what ministry is.
Being a minister is far more difficult than I imagined. Not to mention the other firsts in my life. I graduated from seminary, got married, and moved to Louisville with in ten days of each other. It has been a tremendous time for learning.
There have been times where my ass has been handed to me on a silver platter with a side of humble pie. There have been times where I witness someone’s faith deepen and God pour out of them. The past six months have been a desert and a paradise to my faith journey.
I fondly look back and remember the first, fresh faces of the congregation as we meet each other. I remember the hopes and dreams I had for all of us. I remember the way the Holy Spirit was involved in my being called to the congregation.
I still have that same hope now that I began with. I hold a deep conviction that this community is Gods and nothing can change that. I have hope that we are emerging from yesterday in to a tomorrow full of creativity, compassion, hunger, and desire for a living God set to do justice in this world.
I am excited to be here. I still feel called here, even in the darkest of nights. I am not sure that I am a good minister. Sometimes, I hold too tightly to the “Rev.” title and forget that I am still just “Ryan.”
I struggle to find my “ministerial identity.” I am not sure I ever understood what I was chasing in seminary, as I pursued the mastering of the divine. I believe I got caught up in the idea of being called to serve in a place that seemed so exotic and beautiful. Perhaps I just wanted to be saved and could not find a way to be saved outside of the structured axis of seminary. Regardless of what it was or what it many be, I am here in parish ministry serving a community of faith as pastor.
I learned a lot about theory and talked a lot about praxis. I am not sure if I ever heard that I was not called to ministry. There may have been folks out there that believed that, but they never shared it with me. I spent most of my time in the past wondering how to get out of my call to minister. These days I must wrestle with how I am going to minister.
I have tried to do some things in ministry that I dreamed of in seminary. I tried to create space for AA groups to wrestle with faith. I tried to start an intentional faith community in Old Louisville. I sought to unify the congregational curriculum with the lectionary and the liturgical calendar. I hoped to update the website and connect via social media. I hoped to do more outward encounters with the local community. I tried to remain spiritual and faithful as I sought Gods vision in all of this.
I wept. I longed. I prayed. I cussed. I was broken. I was built up. I was held. I was carried. I connected. I waited. I hoped…
I have many ideas for what ministry might look like in my faith community. I have many more ideas on what faith many look like in our culture and how to facilitate conversations amongst all of the partners. I have a faith that God is in control of it all.
I still find it difficult to wait. I have never had patience. I wrestle with purpose. I still am trying to run from my call.
I am finding pleasure in poem, song, and running. These coupled with the love of my wife and the excitement of community carry me along. I am holding tightly to this poem [Vespers] from Louise Gluck.
“In your extended absence, you permit me use of earth, anticipating some return on investment. I must report failure in my assignment, principally regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold the heavy rains, the cold nights that come so often here, while other regions get twelve weeks of summer. All this belongs to you: on the other hand, I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly multiplying in the rows. I doubt you have a heart, in our understanding of that term. You who do not discriminate between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, immune to foreshadowing, you may not know how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf, the red leaves of the maple falling even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible for these vines.”
God I get that you are the owner of all the earth and allow me to garden in your fields. I dig that you arrange life as it were. I ask that if you are going to protect me from myself that you allow me sufficient grace to be what you called me to be as you equip me to do that which you called me to do.