During this church year, I've been speaking about once a month at another UU congregation on the mainland. I've known the leadership at this congregation for several years and am very fond of members of the church, so I was pleased to be asked to be one of the four ministers who would preach for them regularly while they were getting ready to go into search for their own minister.
I've enjoyed this very much; they are a vibrant and energetic, well-organized bunch of folks and I've always had a good experience with them. They pay well; they are appreciative and well-aware of what constitutes high quality worship.
But in April, when my vision went wonky on me, one of the reasons I delayed treatment was so that I could fulfill my obligation to them on the upcoming Sunday, and that was a mistake. This was certainly not their fault; they would have managed just fine if I'd called up and said, "gosh, folks, I'd better get this treated right away. Count me out this Sunday", even at the last moment.
My overdeveloped sense of responsibility put their needs before my own and I have had a couple of months now of regretting my decision, as I realize that my vision will always have this distortion in it and that it was caused by waiting for four days to address a detached retina.
So I've been rethinking how much off-island preaching I want to do in the coming year. I've developed a good reputation as a guest speaker and already have had several invitations to preach around the area during the next church year. And the afore-mentioned congregation asked me to come back on approximately the same schedule for next year, as they were unsuccessful in mounting a search.
I decided awhile back to decline that invitation, if it came, and when it did, a couple of weeks ago, I said that I would be glad to come a couple of times but not every month, as I have done. They suggested a couple of dates, both of which were already promised to UUCWI, so I don't think I will be able to preach there next year. In the meantime, two other congregations have asked me to come preach for them, so I will be going to Skagit and to Blaine---once each.
Here's the thing: I'm only parttime at UUCWI and preach here twice a month, so I have extra Sundays when I can travel to other churches to speak. Most of our UU congregations give a generous honorarium ($250 plus travel expense) to visiting UU ministers. That's a nice chunk of change and really helps my bottom line to be taking in an extra $250 a month. It also gives me a chance to see old friends from across the area, in their own home churches.
But during this past year, when I was on the road at least one Sunday a month, I missed out on some really important lay-led services: This I Believe (when a few members give a brief overview of their religious beliefs); Soap Box Sunday (when members are invited to speak on an issue dear to their hearts); El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, a traditional time of remembrance); and also some of the wonderful local speakers from the Whidbey Institute, an environmentally-based not-for-profit group nearby. I hate missing these moments.
And, I hate missing so many Sundays in our own facility, particularly since we have had new people coming in droves. They are coming back repeatedly, too, and often I don't meet them for a few weeks because of my schedule.
I'm even dubious about doing pulpit exchanges this year. I probably will, as I do like for my folks to hear other UU preachers, but I will miss being among my own congregation as they listen to another person.
However it works out, I am newly aware (or aware even more clearly) that I much prefer being at home for church than anywhere else. It's fun to be popular, but there's a price to pay, because I know I put popularity ahead of my own good sense in April. I hope I won't do that again, but, gosh, it's fun to be one of the popular girls----after 60 years!