Yesterday, I preached the sermon for Andy’s Installation service. The last time I preached was maybe sometime in January of this year. The last time I stepped onto a chancel with a robe on was late March. The last time I did anything church-job related was mid-April. Almost 6ish months…or 10 months. It felt strange…slipping into the huge bell sleeves and feeling the weight of the cloth on my shoulders hanging down almost to my ankles. I forgot how it is basically like a walking sauna – I was sweating so much by the end of the service. The clip at the top has a tendency to come undone, I forgot to keep checking it. I forgot that there were some cough drops and a tube of cherry chapstick in the pocket – but delighted to find them. Still, putting it on felt like…seeing an old friend again. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it until it was on. I actually felt a little weepy.
The sermon – I certainly felt rusty, but it was ok? I forgot to also check out the pulpit for its little idiosyncrasies – angle of the top, mic placement, height of the pulpit, etc. I certainly enjoyed preaching despite feeling like I was working out (my glasses kept slipping down my face). But it was still fairly surreal – to be on that side of the pulpit again. I had forgotten so much, but I remembered how much I enjoy it all.
For the rest of the service, I’ll be honest – I was thinking a lot about my own call. Though the words were for Andy, I was thinking about what they meant for me, and remembering what I had done, and how hard I had worked to be in ministry, and to have done ministry for the last 6+ years. And I wondered if and when I would be there again. Putting on the robe had meant so much more than simply dressing up for worship – it was a sign of my having lived into that identity – the process and journey – and I remembered again that moment I finally had felt like a pastor. It was at a winter camp with the high school students, and we were in line for The Screamer, when I heard a student or someone shouting, “Pastor! Pastor!” And it was meant for someone else, but I turned around immediately wondering who was calling for me.
There was a hollow pit in my stomach at one point as I thought about all that was gone in terms of my vocation.
When Andy and I were standing at the doors to do the normal, familiar meet-and-greet people following the service I found myself utterly 1) disoriented (I blame the robe) because I kept saying, “Good morning! Great to have you with us today!” even though it was afternoon. I mean, late afternoon, basically early evening, like 5:30 pm. I’m just so used to being in the robe in the mornings…and more poignantly, 2) distracted. My mind switched to the nursery and what was happening there. After reflecting on it, I wrote to a friend in an email:
As much as I miss church ministry, my mind was on the babies, who had been in the nursery the whole time. I was wondering what they were doing, how they were doing, and just…missed them, too. Even more. In a weird way, I’m grieving not only the seeming loss or pause in my vocation but even the desire to do ministry.
All these feelings sort of solidified where I am now…things are changing and percolating, but it feels good to have my heart longing for the babies…
During one of my favorite parts – which is to touchbase with others after the service, essentially almost everyone – I was thinking about the babies. And missing them even though I’d only been away from them for about an hour or so.
And this made me realize that my vocation is still in me and present, but my parishioners right now are few and small…And I’m okay with that right now.