Fresh from church this morning, my thoughts revolve around my ministry to my current congregation, a group I've served for most of seven years now, officially working half-time. It's been a very good seven years and I have no desire to serve anywhere else, nor do I really want to work more than half-time.
4. Ministry at home: I made efforts to start some Young Adult programming which is now on hold because of changes in the young adults' lives; our building dedication in March was a huge milestone; as a congregation we made a public stand on South Whidbey about our stand on same-sex relationships and offered the gift of our sanctuary and my services to perform weddings for same-sex couples; we held memorial services for two members, each beloved and complex. I got a couple of new groups started, dine-out nights for members and friends who live on either end of this 55 mile long island. Conversations on theology, following the theme of the worship year, have been successful and well-attended. I've agreed to attend the death of one person who intends to use Washington's Death with Dignity act when the time comes. We have finally (I hope) peacefully solved a nagging issue of gossip and rumor that has dogged one family in the congregation. Our Christmas Eve service was lovely and reminded me how much I enjoy working hand in hand with a lay worship leader to plan and carry out this important service in the life of our congregation. My delight in this beautiful group of folks increases the longer I know them.
So: how long shall I keep being an active minister to this community? How shall I use my time most effectively, considering that I'm actually working more than half-time; it's just that they can only pay me half-time. If I were to retire, where would I go, because it would be hard to stay on the island and not be as involved with the congregation as I currently am. Uprooting myself and going elsewhere, even to the Oregon coast as I've wanted to do for years, would be very painful and yet it would be much better for the congregation and its new minister, if I were not here.
To Do: I do need to pace myself, encourage others to start new activities rather than doing it myself. This past month I have felt more stress than I've felt for years, in December, and the stress-related physical complaints I've had are proof of that. I need to make some decisions about retirement and, in consultation with my Committee on Ministry, give the congregation some general timelines, even though I'm not ready to announce a retirement for a few more years.
5. Ministry in the larger community: I've done outside preaching gigs for the Woodinville church (6 times in 2009), Skagit (twice), and Blaine (once), which gave me much appreciated extra income but also wore me out with traveling and meeting deadlines for others' newsletters and orders of service. It wasn't quite as much fun as it used to be. The Veterans' Resource Center has gotten underway, with my help, and that feels good. I performed four or five weddings over the year, which are fun but demanding of time and energy. My hospital chaplaincy volunteering isn't as satisfying right now as it was earlier; I find myself skimming hospital rooms, not spending as much time as I once did. I was the Eliot chaplain and also felt that my work there was lackluster. An island friend, Sue, is very very ill and has asked me to work with her on her memorial service, a task that feels both like an honor and an occasion of personal sorrow. I see our opportunities growing to encourage interfaith activity on the island and feel a thrill that we have Sufis, Quakers, and Jews using our building regularly. My lectionary colleagues have become very dear and my district activities are enjoyable and mostly satisfying.
So: Do I want to preach outside gigs any more? How many weddings are too many? Do I ever want to be an Eliot chaplain again? Can we increase our interfaith work without increasing my hours? What should I do about my chaplaincy volunteering at the hospital?
To Do: I think I will refuse most outside gigs from now on, perhaps limiting myself to one or two a year; it's just so much trouble to prepare, to pack, to travel, for a brief service somewhere else and I don't need the money. I will limit weddings to four or five per year and refer others to UU colleagues who live on the island. I will cut back my chaplaincy days at the hospital to two a month. I will turn down the opportunity to be Eliot chaplain in the future.
Doing this rundown on the year 2009 has been helpful to me, yet it leaves out an important foundational layer: my spiritual life, the part that doesn't appear in my daybook but is there, in every event, every encounter, every worship service. I need to do some more thinking about it and will post more when I've had a chance to do it.
So that's it for today. Tune in for part III in a few days.