Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June 1

I'm big on marking milestones and anniversaries. I have three or four that apply to my relationship with Mrs. Jeff. I have another half dozen or so that apply to my faith or ministry.

June 1st was one of those days. While it didn't mark three years at my current church, it does mark three years in full-time ministry.

Three years ago on that day I began a two-month stint at my home church while the pastor was on sabbatical. There was a slight overlap where he brought me up to speed on some pastoral care issues, and I can recall his turning to me at the end of the session and asking, "Well, how about you go stop by and see so-and-so while I go see so-and-so?" Here, with the ink barely dry on my M.Div, I remember having a moment of complete awe that this was really happening. For the next two months, I'd be this church's pastor. I had the benefit of support staff and a lighter summer schedule, but I was still The Pastor.

I remember sharing a concern that first day about what to do if a funeral came up. I had wrung my hands because I wasn't sure how to handle them on a practical level. As things would go, I did two during those months, and the funeral director helped me through it. I also co-officiated a wedding. I visited people. I counseled people in need of money for gas. I argued in a pastoral way with a woman about same-sex marriage. I preached and sat in on meetings. I prayed with the kids at Vacation Bible School. I did this full-time, my eyes wide with the newness of it all and with the realization that I didn't suck at it.

The time passed quickly, and I returned to St. Louis. The next four months were spent in the search process for a more permanent situation. I did a few weeks' pulpit supply here and there, but mostly I just looked at my desk calendar and marveled at the stark difference between June and July and the following months.

It was an awesome transitional time, where a church that had supported me from afar through my seminary experience got to see me in action. I love my seminary for constantly having us in the field in addition to classwork, but these two months were also a good introduction to pastoral life with less of a safety net.

So here's to three years of ministry. It may end up being a slightly bigger deal when I hit three years in one place, but I've already hit three years in general.