Sunday, February 11, 2007


In the past few days, I have actually had chances to play! I sometimes wonder about myself. I enjoy my work so much that I occasionally will go for many days before I take time to goof off and have some non-church-related fun.

I used to justify this by intoning Robert Frost's lines from "Two Tramps in Mud-Time":

"But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future´s sakes."

I love this stanza of his poem and truly, my avocation and my vocation are mostly united. Ministry for me is so much fun that sometimes I am amazed that they pay me to do this work.

But that means that I don't look for opportunities to play very often. I always seem to be working on something, whether it's at the gym, around the house, doing email, even thinking. I rarely read fiction except when I'm in bed. I am never far from my work. Even my trips out of town are usually work related.

I'm well aware that there is a certain Type A mentality in me and I have to make myself turn away from the job and do something entirely different.

This week has offered a couple of opportunities for fun. On Thursday night, I hosted a small group of musicians and we played old fiddle tunes, waltzes and folk songs for a couple of hours. I often just listen, but this time I dragged out my electronic keyboard and practiced a bunch of stuff I knew and was able to play along. I'm no Elton John, but I've played piano for years and learned how to use a fake book a long time ago.

We used to jam at Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver, at the Denver Friends of Folk Music, and in small groups, and it was there that I learned all the fiddle tunes in my repertoire. I never did learn how to play the fiddle, but I could use my keyboard know-how to play along. And it was hugely satisfying to play along with Judy, Steve, and JoAnn on their assorted instruments on Thursday night.

Then last night was the big UUCWI church auction, an annual fundraiser. And it was church-related, but it was also a lot of fun in its own right AND I bid on and bought several items which will offer occasions for fun.

I bought the following items: two beautiful, handthrown pottery serving bowls, which I will probably use for a gift; a lesson in making photographic bookmarks; a night of playing 25 cent poker; a family picnic at Goss Lake; a mystery dinner at Lavender Wind Farm; and, most exciting, a trip to the Walla Walla wine country in September. The events are spread out across the next several months, guaranteeing that I will be forced to have fun on a regular schedule during the coming year.

You might wonder if it's possible for a minister to have fun at church-related events. I know that the common wisdom among clergy is that a minister is always "on" when with the flock, and I agree with that and am careful when I'm with congregants (not that I do anything appalling when I'm not with them), but in a small community, it's necessary and appropriate to mingle socially with members of my congregation, avoiding church business if possible, and just enjoying each other.

A couple of UUCWI musicians occasionally come to the Thursday jams and there we are just fellow singers and players; the relationship is not minister and parishioner but musician and musician.

If it weren't possible to stretch these boundaries a bit, it would be very lonely to live in a small community. But it does require care. I don't want to embarrass my congregation nor make it difficult for them to see me as their minister, not just their buddy. It's a fine line to walk. I hope I do it appropriately.


LinguistFriend said...

Kit, it is always illuminating when you talk about being a minister. At times I get hints of the issues from other sources, but you are transparent about many aspects of your profession without minimizing its complexity, and you speak of it with much respect.
Your recreation of the last few days does sound like fun. When I was an undergraduate, I sang (2nd tenor, I could push the voice up to 1st) occasionally with a small bluegrass group called the Charles River Valley Boys. Most of them were Harvard undergrads, but there was also an MIT biologist. All of the others whom I remember were science or engineering students. Now I am reasonably sure that I will not sing decently again without minor surgery which would not otherwise be necessary. I would have to explain the problem to the surgeon, since only one other person than myself that I know of (a Japanese surgeon friend in Shiga) has collected relevant experimental data, and he is dead. Probably I will never bother, but I do miss being able to sing.
The local coffee shop/2nd hand bookstore has occasional playing of Irish country instrumental music and other types. It is one of the things that make the place livable.
A friend from Bowling Green who is visiting Portland (Or.) with a view to moving there (by GA, probably) was amused at your mention of beautiful BG, when she called from there last week to check in.

ms. kitty said...

Dear Linguist Friend, you are full of surprises! A fellow bluegrass aficionado, it sounds like. Well, well. And, frankly, unless it is ill-advised, I hope you sing anyhow, voice or no voice. The universe needs your song.

So beautiful Bowling Green exists only in my imagination, huh?

LinguistFriend said...

Beautiful Bowling Green has the mythical status of Beautiful Downtown Burbank. It does have a number of striking or just pleasant hundred-year old frame houses, from the days when oil and gas provided an economic stimulus that has now vanished. Every now and then I think that I would like to have one of those old houses, and then I realize that my library would go through the floors. The water table is so high here that basements are wet unless there are special expensive arrangements, so there is no cure.

Mile High Pixie said...

How funny you should mention only reading fiction in bed--I can't recall the last time I read fiction; it's actually been years. I think part of that is because my motto is "Truth is stranger than fiction." Well-written, well-argued real things interest me and can often make me laugh out loud. And singing? i used to have an immaculate voice in high school, but it seems I've lost the ability to sing always in key in the ensuing 12 years. I've since embraced singing along with the radio when going to my site visits. Now, if I can work comedy into my job more, my vocation and my avocation will be one....

Miss Kitty said...

I agree with LinguistFriend: it's always an eye-opener to read about your work as a minister. We congregants rarely get to hear about what life's like on the other side of the pulpit.

My students are always astonished when they see me at the grocery store, or at the movie theater, or at a concert or sporting event. But I remind them that I'm human, too, and I need my playtime just as they need theirs.

Berrysmom said...

I really resonate with the issue of being the UU minister in a small community. Being married to my co-minister makes it a bit easier to have a social life without socializing with our members, as we can socialize with each other.

But I firmly believe that when we are with our congregants, we are their ministers no matter where we are or what we are doing: at the movies, in the grocery store, in a hot tub (yes, I have gotten into a hot tub with one member and several non-members, but she is someone I really trust--I woudn't go hot-tubbing with just anyone!)

Thus we (Berry's Dad and I) have tended to stay away from the social events offered at the church: salsa dancing, dinners sold at the auction, etc. They may be social events for the others, but for us they are invariably work, even if no "work" shows up for us to do. I try really hard to keep my social life separate from my work, so I don't socialize with members and don't participate in very many social events that are church-sponsored, except when it is glaringly obvious that we MUST be there.

This makes me sad sometimes, since our members are unquestionably the coolest people in town!