As we watch the Occupy movements around the US in Oakland, Chicago, NY and beyond take shape and morph into various complaints about the state of our economy, I cannot help but think about my own economics. The origins of the word, “economic” means to manage one’s household. The larger economy has affected my own household economics. Eight months ago my ministry position was eliminated due to a budget shortfall, thus I launched in a new “Search and Call process” to find my next congregation. Churches move very slowly. For example, I applied for a position as soon as it opened in May. I made it to the final round when they called another candidate in October–six months of waiting for me (and that was fast for a church!). After submitting my “resume” to many positions, receiving multiple phone interviews and coming very close to landing a new ministry position, I have learned the hard way how my situation is no different than many people who have been in search of work longer than I.
Where is God in all this? In Christian ministry we believe that God calls us to serve God’s people for the benefit of building up the realm of God on earth today…in short a ministry position in a church setting is an affirmation of your calling to ministry. Job = authentic call to ministry. In some church denominations such as the PCUSA, you are not ordained without a called ministry position. So where does that leave myself and the other pastors who have found themselves in a state without a church?
Has God abandoned the church? I think not. Has God abandoned those called into service of God’s people. Again, I think not. The spiritual hunger of people remains. The need for counsel, support, encouragement, and larger spiritual vision is critical when the walls of our institutional congregations are crumbling.
Most recently I was notified the congregation where I was ordained is closing. The first church I served in ministry has called a part time pastor, no longer able to sustain a full time minister. The shrinking of our congregations is happening all over our country. How are we caring for our pastors and their families?
Did you know that pastors receive no unemployment benefits? Churches do not pay into unemployment and thus pastors when released do not qualify for unemployment. No safety net. When people experience a set back in their personal economic situation, the first thing they cut from their budget is their charitable giving. No charitable giving means church budgets suffer. Widespread job losses means churches decrease staffing. When people regain employment the last thing they add back into their budget is charitable giving. The first to be impacted and the last to recover are our non-profit organizations, churches, synagogues, and temples.
While the reality of “church as usual” is slow to change and yet quick to react to economic woes, I have found that a congregation is emerging around me–a congregation unencumbered by mortgages, program costs, costly repairs and staffing challenges. A congregation of people within my communities–my neighbors, my friends, my family, my facebook community, my colleagues, and the friends of my children. Our home is becoming the centerpiece where faith, hospitality, love, sharing, community, family enrichment, and making a difference begins to emerge.
This is a new beginning. Thus today with this blog I begin a ministry without walls. A conversation about faith, and beauty, about God and politics, about family and activism, about engaging a diversity of voices each challenged to live in this world and yet remain faithful to a God who has called them to serve a greater good.
The nature of my life, my calling, and my views engenders thoughtful conversations about God, about relationships, and about quality family life. I care that my faith makes a difference in the world. And because I care and because I am called to minister to the “least of these”, I am embarking on this new blogging adventure.
Whether from the East or West, Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, I invite you to join me in this spiritual conversation about faith, family, and making a difference in God’s world.
Peace, Shanti, Shalom,