Sunday Reflection: A Year in Review

photo of person holding crystal ball
Photo by Bogdan Dirică

When I was in tenth grade, we had to do that oral report.  You know, the five minute oral report on how to do something.  I remember it was tenth grade because I had just changed schools and well, giving oral reports is terrifying.  I think it was one of the most horrible experiences of my life: The Oral Report.  I don’t even like Oreo cookies.  Never have.  (I did my oral report on how to eat an Oreo cookie).  

I decided that a career than involved public speaking was out of the question.  How did I end up here?  I. have. No. Idea.  But, here I am.  

Someone asked me after the Christmas Eve service how it went and it had me reflecting on the whole year.  How I got here.  Why I got here.  What I learned.  How I’ve grown from the experience.  End of year: reflection time.  Looking back time.  

I think my first, most important, thing to say is: what an honor.  Truly.  I’ve gotten to step into shoes, into a place, I never expected to fill.  I’ve been able to explore a place I never expected to explore from the inside and it’s been interesting.  I can’t help but think: what an honor to be a minister.  Truly, someone gets to devote their whole life to God, the divine, and the service of others. That’s awesome.  

I’ve also had the honor, maybe privilege is a better word for this part, to explore the ups and downs of that honor.  Here’s what I’ve learned (of course, this is from my own perspective, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to take from our lay ministers the opportunity to get a peek inside some of the inner workings—obviously, an ordained minister has a different experience of the inner workings that we do not)

July:  

I had a lot of “scope” fear and pressure.  Did I belong up here?  Could I do a good job?  What did I have to offer and how to offer it?  How could I hone my skills and knowledge to be the best that I could be?  What were my strengths and weaknesses and how to build up my weaknesses.  

I was also sure, unknowing of how the Search process works, that it would be a short term.  

A pitta side of me kicked in.  That the side that is going to do everything perfectly and even better than perfect.  Here’s what I knew: I might not be a ‘minister’ with a piece of paper to prove it or the backing of an affiliation to give me confidence.  But I have heart and soul.  I care and I’m passionate.  And, practically speaking, a lot of my training is spiritual and counseling.  I can fill in.  And I had people supporting me.  You.  Owen (a colleague who is a minister) told me: it’s yoga, without the mat.  

Weaknesses: I hadn’t read the Bible in ages.  I dislike public speaking.  And time.  I already had a full life.  Fear…would I be able to offer everybody what they needed?  How is that even possible?  

Action Steps:
–Decided to take some courses on the Bible to brush up on weak spaces.  
–Better time management (color coding the organizer—the church is pink)

July: I could do it all.  It would be tough, but I could do it all.  

August:  

Still doing fine, but the busy is kicking in with the Village Fair and the 5K.  But strengths and weaknesses weren’t any different.  The plan was still to manage time and take courses.  

Oh…and no ad libbing.  Stick to the cards, Charlotte, stick to the cards.  

September:

Things get a little busy here.  This is where I decided that I did not have to be perfect.   I know.  I know.  This is when I created a template for the service and I mostly stick to it.  I tried to make it as simple as possible and find ways to make it as manageable as possible.  This is when I reminded myself that I am not a minister.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It is enough and I am enough.  I stopped taking the courses.

This is also where I reminded myself that a ‘real’ minister with those seven years of training has a larger repertoire of study, texts, and papers to draw from.  Ideally, they also have experience and their own sermons that have supported them and will continue to support them and help them as they grow with the congregation.  I don’t have any of that.  It’s all from scratch.

It’s not going to be perfect.  

This is where I reminded myself that the simple weekly ritual of gathering together and singing familiar hymns and hearing familiar readings is pretty sweet and nourishing.  

It’s all good.  

October:   

Oh, boy, this is where I get to talk about…funerals.  For those who don’t know, I did one in February.  Don was unable to do it and the family knew me and asked if I would.  So I did.  Terrifying, Oreo cookie oral report moments, but it felt good to be doing something good for friends and the community.  

I never planned to do one again.  

Until a dear friend asked me to do his wife’s funeral.  It was only a graveside service…so I agreed.  THEN, I found out there was a service at the funeral home (by then, it was too late to run away).   

Here’s what I was given for advice for funeral services (some useful, some…not so much)

–Don’t run
–Don’t laugh 
–Don’t stand near bagpipes
–No lame rock and roll lyrics.  
–Keep it short, sweet, and meaningful.

Things I learned: 

–Keep it short, sweet, and meaningful.  
–Sit with the family. The service is the icing; the family just wants to share stories.  (Or in these two cases).  
–Stick to the cards and be prepared to modify if it’s 27 degrees and a graveside service.  

November:

Holly Fair comes around and the busy season.  But it’s also a time of reflection and gratitude.  Thought about where lay ministering is serving and where it is lacking.  

First there isn’t a minister on hand at all times.  The congregation has had to step in to visit and comfort and minister.  

It says on the back of the bulletin that we, the people, are the ministers of the Church, so maybe it’s a good thing for us to be ministering to one another in all those forms. 

Community.  I keep coming back to community.  We are the heart and soul of this Church.  We are what remains permanent.  I’m seeing all the beautiful ways we support and come together to make things happen (the Holly Fair).  Everyone steps up in their own way, amidst their own full lives.  It seems there’s always a place that has a needs that fits each of our gifts and things come together.  

This is when I realize how much I have learned along with you.  Discovering and exploring what the church needs and what makes a good minister.  I feel a little like a lower case teacher.  I am learning with you, sharing what I’m learning so that we can, together, explore what our spirituality and religion means to us.  

I feel like there is something beautiful in that.  Although there is also something beautiful for when there is the capital case Teacher to take the seat of the minister.  

Lots of pondering this month.  What we need.  What we want.  What sort of roles do we want the minister filling: how to help with children’s ministry, adult ministry, community ministry, church ministry, pastoral care.  Ministry and ponderings.  What does the future look like?  More to the point, what might the future look like:

No right or wrong answers. It IS like yoga.  🙂

December:  

I learned/experienced a lot in December.  

I couldn’t do everything I had hoped to do, but I did my best.  

I learned that I can’t do it without the support of others.  Both the moral support: “you got this” and “you’re doing great”. And the physical support: “I can do that task for you.” support.  I won’t mention incidences, but you know who you are.  Most everyone in here.  

[Actual story reference has been removed for public web post] December was when I discovered a piece of being in the seat of the minister that I did not expect to experience.  I was labeled and treated for the box I was fit into.  

It was a learning experience to feel the, for lack of a better word, the ‘war on Christmas and Christianity’. It was an odd place to be in.  I had to remind myself that the attack was not personal (they didn’t even know me), or the Church (we’re just a small community church), but on the Big Churches and the Big Christianity.  In the moment, it was hard to separate, but speaking on behalf of the church I thought: WWJD?  

[private reflections removed for web post]

And…I let go.  Surrender to Grace (see, it really is yoga without the mat).

And then we come to Christmas Eve.  Back to the beginning where I was asked: How did Christmas Eve go?  And I said I was honored.  Honored.  The whole year was an honor and an experience.  

It also brings us back around to Oreo cookies.  

Christmas Eve felt like and Oreo cookie oral report, even tho it was an honor and amazing to coordinate…

If I mess up a Sunday, there’s another Sunday in seven days.  If I mess up Christmas Eve, there’s not another one for another 365 days.  But…it looks like it will be a good one.  C– is already rehearsing his Sunday before Christmas performance.  And we are already plotting to possibly have The Amherst Irregulars become a regular Christmas Eve event.  

There will be lots of music and celebration!!

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