Things have been a little quiet over here in my blogiverse, not b/c nothing is happening or because I don’t have any thoughts, b/c I do. I’ve got plenty of things marinating on the insane right-wing rage directed at our President, on the lies they’re telling about health care reform, on dubious fashion trends. I’ve been working a lot and watching a lot of football so I’ve not taken time to sit down and write about it all, but I will. Right now I’m in the midst of hashing out some thoughts related to calling and so that’s what you’re getting this evening. I say “you’re” because I’m under the impression that people actually read this. It’s really for my own processing, so here goes.
I was pretty sure at age 20 that my life would be mostly about ministry, although I had no idea what that would look like. Actually, I remember the moment I realized that and I was wearing hot pink and white striped espadrilles from the company where I now work, which could either be portentous or merely noteworthy. A couple of years later I found the answer to what I believed was my call and that was the now-defunct Creative Arts in Worship degree from Grand Canyon University. It was perfect for me, really, b/c it involved music, drama, tech, writing and anything else that was starting to be used in worship. This was in the early nineties at the beginning of the contemporary worship wave. I got to go to Willow Creek a couple of times, sing in some cool services and it was a great time. Following school, I drifted around a bit w/ a day job and doing church stuff on the side until a series of events brought me to San Francisco.
I moved here in 1998 to take the position of Children’s Ministry Coordinator at First Baptist, San Francisco. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, Grand Canyon was Southern Baptist at the time, and I knew that I’d eventually go to Golden Gate Seminary, which I did. All though college and into seminary I saw myself as being a behind-the-scenes producer, arts coordinator person. It slowly dawned on me (this is a theme in my life – things slowly dawn on me. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Plus, my middle name is Dawn, so that might have something to do with it as well.) that I’m not a behind-the-scenes person. I have a big, strong personality that tends to make the other personalities in the room want to perhaps go out for a cocktail, so it didn’t make sense. I am also a good singer and very comfortable on stage and it didn’t make sense for my goal to be to not be on stage. I did my first actual worship leading in seminary and after that worked some other day jobs and did some worship leading at churches on the side, some with pay, some not. One of the things that I did well in seminary was preach. My preaching class was one of my favorites and I love studying the original languages of scripture, studying history and culture and putting together a relevant message. I was never in churches who allowed me to do that, though, so I just continued on enjoying that as part of my studies, hoping that someday I could do it in real life.
I had always figured that music & worship leading was it. That’s my place, and I’ll happily take it. A few years ago I was at a lunch for the Marin Leadership Forum and Mark Yaconelli was giving a great talk on his latest book on spiritual formation in youth. As I sat there at the Novato Country Club, I zoned out for a second looking out the window and I had one of those rare moments when God spoke to me directly. “I want you to be the pastor of a church.” I froze for a second and looked around, just to be sure it wasn’t someone else talking, and to see if anyone else heard it. Yaconelli was still talking and the crowd was still hanging on his every word, so clearly that was all me. Under my breath I muttered, “Ok, but do you mind if I finish my chicken?”*
Lately, as I’ve considered what it means to be a pastor, I’ve come to see it more as a larger identity and have begun to pursue a more career-oriented direction at my company, particularly in the are of learning & development. As I’ve thought and prayed and tried to listen to God about it, I’ve gotten two messages: 1) Do whatever will make you a better pastor, and 2) The most important thing is to be a worshipper. When I got the first one, I found it to be less than helpful, only because I was really hoping for one of the hand-from-heaven-writing-on-the-wall secenarios. If memory serves, however, that was a message of doom, so maybe not that, but you get the idea. I wanted something clear-cut. That was not to be. The second message was more helpful, because I believe my focus had come off of the bigger picture of who I was and I was just looking for the next thing to be the answer. That message had me step back and re-orient myself to where I needed to be. Shortly thereafter, some things started to come together. Stay tuned for that.
Pastor of a church. I know what that means in a traditional sense, but I am not a traditional girl. As I get older my view of God and God’s kingdom expands and I see that “church” is so much bigger than “group” or “building” or “denomination”. I’m working out call as identity. I am a pastor. I don’t work as a pastor, no, it’s not my occupation, but it is my vocation. I have conversations about God and spirituality and theology all the time. I do my best to listen well, to comfort, to help, to encourage. I hold in prayer, give counsel, and am present for life events. I may someday be an actual pastor of an actual church. I don’t know. I am doing my best to live as I have been called and look forward to the progressive slow dawning the more that is to come.
*I only just recently realized the irony of God calling me to be a pastor at a golf course when one of my frustrations w/ the boys club that is the pastorate is that all the decisions are made on the golf course. God’s funny.