Here’s another blog entry that is mostly for my own benefit – something I’m jotting down now, so that I have a reference point if I ever wish to look back. In some ways, this is one of those areas where I struggle with discerning (like I blogged a few days ago). Who knows – maybe by throwing this out, someone will chime in with some wise new insight.
I have thought (for a decade, maybe more) that I’d eventually be involved more full-time in Church work of some kind. The seeds of this thinking may have been planted while I was camp counselor at Laurelville during the summer after my high school graduation. The next summer, I struggled between choosing a research internship or counseling again. I chose the science path, but I now I remember that summer as being more about spiritual than intellectual growth. After living in Costa Rica for a semester and being encouraged by my host family to consider pastoral ministry, I returned to Laurelville for a full year of voluntary service. I wanted some time to sort through things, and I actually ended up adding a second science major after that year was finished. And yet the questioning continued… Throughout the rest of my undergraduate time, I was prodded by an anonymous professor encouraging me to consider a pastor inquiry program.
Once I was in graduate school, I started thinking more seriously about seminary. It didn’t hurt that Ordinary Spouse and I were attending a congregation with a tradition of lay leadership and that we had the opportunity to actively participate in that. However, OS wisely pointed out that it’s not a good idea to make career changing decisions when you’re frustrated by graduate research. So we persevered.
While I was doing a postdoc, we were once again in a congregation that gave me a chance to be involved in leadership. However, we weren’t there long, and now the last five years have found us in our current home and congregation. The sense of nudging seems to continue, but I continue as a beamline scientist.
So, why is that? There are a few things which factor into discernment right now:
1) I enjoy my job. In fact, it’s the best science job I could ask for. It also pays well enough that Ordinary Spouse has the freedom to pursue whatever path she wants – including being a full-time mom. This is a good situation to be in when considering a change of direction.
2) Ordinary Spouse really enjoys the work that she is doing with our congregation right now. This is the story that I haven’t told above. My story is actually part of our family’s story. Both OS and I feel called to Church ministry, and she has found what seems to be a very good fit as our congregation’s Lay Minister of Worship. It suits her passions well. Whatever my future holds will compliment her future.
3) I don’t know what I’d pursue if I started seminary. There’s a decent chance that it wouldn’t be a traditional pastoring job. More on this below.
4) We live in a good place for raising a family. A good house, a good community, schools, etc.
5) I know that I’m susceptible to being distracted by whatever is new. Hobbies, music, etc. I’ll try something for a while and then I’ll try something else. I’m not sure that this is a good approach to vocational choices. This ties into my blog from a few days ago – how well am I able to judge my own motivations?
So, what might the future look like? Where are my passions? Why not pastoring?
1) First, I haven’t ruled out a traditional path, but I have the impression that there is a sizeable chunk of time that pastors put into teaching: preparing and delivering sermons, Sunday school lessons, other engagements. I enjoy being a learner, but I’m not sure about the regular teaching. But is that different from exploring things on my blog? We’ll see.
2) On the other hand, there is quite a bit that pastors do that excites me. In particular, I love worship planning and leading. Also, I am drawn to the actual pastoring – the pastoral care part of their jobs.
3) I constantly hunger for greater spiritual discipline in my own life, and I enjoy working with others, as well. Work with spiritual direction interests me.
4) Creation continues to draw me, as it did when I worked at Laurelville. In fact, the entire ministry of Christian camps is very attractive. When done well, these camps offer a very holistic approach to faith that integrates every aspect of life, rather than segregating them.
5) Recently, I have a new passion for community, with an emphasis on the unity of Christ’s disciples. Maybe there is room for mediation and reconciliation work.
So that’s where I am as the end of 2009 rolls around. If I could create my own job, I might do spiritual direction at a church camp for individuals or groups part time, while travelling to work with groups at direction or mediation work the rest of the time. Ordinary Spouse and I often say something like, “Who knows where we’ll be in five or eight years.” I guess we’ll see.