wrote Carl Sandburg. And so it did last night, chasing the almost-full moon out of the sky and waking me at 3 a.m. to the sound of a foghorn on the water, eerily loud though the coastline is more than a couple of miles away. It inserted itself into my dream and emerged as an alarm of some kind, so it took me a little while to go back to sleep as I conjured up all the reasons why I might hear an alarm in the middle of the night. None of them applied to the situation and I figured that the sound was carried farther than usual by the atmospheric conditions. This morning it is quite foggy and chilly.
Our gym is closed this week for the annual cleanup and repair, so my early morning routine is changed briefly and I have to find another way to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Yesterday I went to Double Bluff beach for a walk; the tide was way out and the sand was wet and firm underfoot. Families were out in force, enjoying the day, with little boys madly dashing their skimboards across tidepools and big boys strutting their stuff on jumps and long skims down tidal channels.
I've been in several situations lately where I've met folks in some casual setting and have avoided revealing what kind of work I do. Last night I went to a local public barbecue and sat down at an open table with a couple of women I didn't know. Our conversation was pretty general but eventually we introduced ourselves and the chitchat moved to more personal topics. I hadn't really decided what I'd do if they asked me what I did for work, but when the topic came up, I didn't have to answer with specifics. So these new acquaintances only know me as Kit, not as a minister.
I'm proud of my training and experience as a minister, but, as I wrote recently, it's a role in people's minds, and people often click into "OMG, she's a minister, what have I said?" or "OMG, she's a minister, how cool!" or "OMG, she's a minister, how repulsive! will she try to invite me to church?" or some such. In any case, the minister-role becomes more important than the person wearing the title.
I tend not to tell people I'm a minister unless they ask directly what I do. I'm old enough that some folks assume I'm retired, and I can say that I'm semi-retired. But once they know, I can see the wheels going around in their heads. Even if they aren't planning to become my parishioners, they seem to see me as a role, not as a person.
Here in this small rural community, even a small congregation's minister gets a certain renown and last night someone I'd barely met said, "oh, you're Kit Ketcham!" That's pleasant, on the one hand, and yet it requires my extroverted minister self to prepare to answer questions about my role rather than my self.
I'm torn. As an extroverted semi-introvert, I love the attention and recognition. At the same time, I'm a little embarrassed by it and don't feel I deserve it in large quantities. And I feel my shoulders sag just a little bit when one more person sees a role instead of a person when they meet me for the first time.
So all you seminarians out there, considering ministry, remember that there are many things you will dearly love about ministry. There will also be a few things you gradually learn to dislike and to avoid, when possible.