Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday Morning, and All Day Monday

Real Live Preacher is no longer a preacher. I mentioned that the other day. For those of us who follow his blog, it's a big deal. For him, it's a really big deal. During the weeks between his resignation and final Sunday, he processed this decision a little. Then, the other day, he wrote about what he experienced the first Sunday he's had off in 17 years:
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do the first Sunday morning after Covenant. In the end, we stayed home. I slept until almost 9:00. We ate lunch and went to a fancy shop to buy some fancy tea, which we both love but feel rather guilty about spending money on. We wandered downtown to look at some historic homes that are facing possible demolition. We moved slowly. We were in no hurry. Later that night I brewed our new tea and we sipped some together.

Our weekend might not sound like much to you, but it was crazy wild fun to me. So much time. So little worry. So relaxed. So peaceful.

A body could get used to this.
In her book Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor gives a similar account of her first post-ministry Sunday...or at least similar realizations about free time and the rhythm of life and so on. I greatly anticipate my own experience of that my first sabbatical Sunday.

In the comments at RLP's place, people are already adding their own accounts of post-church Sunday experiences and how wonderful all the free time is.

One commenter's note about "rediscovering the simplicity and nourishment of life" hit me funny. Here's why.

Last week, I actually didn't work too much. (Sssshh...don't tell anyone!) It was a perfect storm of events: our nanny came down with what was probably H1N1, the snow not only got some church events cancelled but it kept Coffeeson's grandma from her weekly visit (she just came the next day instead, since the nanny was sick). My position affords me a lot more flexibility than Coffeewife's, so in addition to my usual Monday off, I pretty much had Wednesday and Friday off as well.

This turn of events was only annoying to me in the sense that it threw off my basic work rhythms, something that RLP acknowledges in his essay. I'd still have to have something to present to the people on Sunday morning, and I needed to get creative with my preparation. But the extra time with Coffeeson was not annoying...it was the right and good and nourishing thing. Now, if all that had been done this week, which features a funeral and Ash Wednesday and a men's breakfast and ice skating with the senior highs...I still would've enjoyed time with Coffeeson, but I certainly would've been a little more on edge.

Here's my point. I believe that pastors can and do enjoy and discover the "simplicity and nourishment of life." It just so happens that we have to find other days or times of the week to do it. I'm probably reading too much into what the commenter wrote, but every Monday it's just me and Coffeeson chasing each other around the house and us both loving it. And I take bass guitar lessons. And Coffeewife and I go on dates. And I read about Michigan football near-obsessively. And sometimes I need to stay home some other day of the week to chase Coffeeson around some more. I know pastors who line dance, pastors who cheer just as obsessively for some other stupid football team in Columbus, pastors who knit, pastors who are beer connoisseurs, and on and on and on it goes.

It's just that we don't do it on Sunday mornings. On Sunday mornings, we attempt to create and contribute to an experience that is meant to heighten awareness of God in the midst of all that simplicity and nourishment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it flops, sometimes it hits people right in their souls, sometimes it puts people to sleep, sometimes it gets incredibly chintzy and sometimes it gets so stripped-down that you can see the bone. But we do that on Sunday mornings, and then we make time for that other stuff later.

I hear the pushback. "Well, us non-pastors don't have other days of the week...we have Sunday mornings." Yeah, I get that. And I think that us pastors need to be aware of how precious those hours are to people.

But for the purposes of this entry, which may just be an overreaction to a simple off-the-cuff phrasing by an anonymous commenter on some other blog, is to say that we pastors love us some "simplicity and nourishment of life." We just do it at other times of the week.


Luke said...

before attending seminary, i read BBT's Leaving Church. i hated it. i wanted to shake her and yell "BOUNDARIES WOMAN!! BOUNDARIES!" yet one can get wrapped up in the parish life and get spit out the other side, completely charred and burnt out.

i'm lucky to have been in a congregation that doesn't tolerate too much over-functioning. boundaries are enforced not only for those on the various parish committees but for the pastor as well. i get the sense that not too many churches do this.

Jeff Nelson said...

I had similar thoughts the first time that I read it as well, Luke. It took me a second reading to get past the overfunctioning issues to the heart of what she was trying to say about life and faith beyond the church.

Anonymous said...

I know pastors who...cheer just as obsessively for some other stupid football team in Columbus

Hey, now. I resemble that remark!!!

It's just that we don't do it on Sunday mornings. On Sunday mornings, we attempt to create and contribute to an experience that is meant to heighten awareness of God in the midst of all that simplicity and nourishment.

In some minds, singing "Come, Christians, Join To Sing" to the tune of "Carmen Oh..", er, "Madrid", on the Sunday before "THE GAME" subtly heightens our awareness of God in our midst.

But in seriousness, you are spot on. We pastors need to carve our time wherever we can find it - a morning here, an afternoon there - especially when the tasks of ministry disrupt the routines. In one sense, this puts us out of synch with the rest of the world - but it keeps us in synch with God.