A while ago, I was reminded yet again that I am no longer in parish ministry. It was the beginning of November and I had not been, since September, planning for the Advent and Christmas season. For the past 25 years, my year operated on the liturgical rhythm—a rhythm that was as much a part of me as breathing. As my eyes danced across the calendar, another awareness hit me—this was a year I relished in the local church, a year when the Sunday after Thanksgiving was NOT the first Sunday of Advent. This was a week to breathe.
While you can take the woman out of the parish, you can’t take the parish out of the woman. For good or ill, I come to this Presbytery work with the heart and soul of a parish minister. I look at mid council work with the eyes of a pastor. And as I realized that Christ the King Sunday came after Thanksgiving and not before, I will confess a bit of jealously welled up in me. The faithful and dedicated pastors in the Presbytery of the Western Reserve have a week to breathe; how wonderful for them and how melancholy for me.
I’ve not yet found the rhythm that is akin to breathing in this mid council work. Truth be told there are days that stretch into weeks and I wonder “how do I mark this time?”. In the midst of a conversation with our stated clerk, I said “I haven’t written a blog post in quite some time.”. “That’s because,” she said “it’s not an emergency.” And there is some truth there. A lot of this work can be defined as immediate—if we’re faithful to this work, we are quick responders. And not just in an emergency sense (although that it is part of it), but in the awareness sense—of being tuned in to congregations and clergy as they seek to be the people God wants them to be in the places God has planted them. That “tuned-in”ness requires movement and a nimbleness. And I don’t yet have a vocabulary for that rhythm.
Part of what I do in this work is support and pray for the pastors and congregations in the Presbytery. As I realized the presence of this week to breathe, I sent the pastors an e-mail which included this prayer from Cloth for the Cradle from the Iona Community. This Advent, this will be a part of my breathing as I continue to look for the rhythm of this work.
Open our eyes
Open our eyes, Lord, Especially if they are half shut because we are tired of looking, Or half open because we fear to see too much, Or bleared with tears because yesterday and today and tomorrow are filled with the same pain, Or contracted because we only look at what we want to see.
Open our eyes, Lord, To gently scan the life we lead, the home we have, the world we inhabit, And so to find, among the gremlins and the greyness, Signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage.
Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by familiarity, A bigger vision of what You can do even with hopeless cases and lost causes and people of limited ability.
Show us the world as in Your sight, riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief, Yet also shot through with possibility for recovery, renewal, redemption.
And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy, today, tomorrow, this week, Open our eyes to one person or one place,Where we—being even for a moment prophetic—Might identify and wean a potential in the waiting.
And with all this, Open our eyes, in yearning, for Jesus.
On the mountains, In the cities, Through the corridors of power and streets of despair, To help, to heal, To confront, to convert, O come, O come, Immanuel.