Feb 23, 2013

Call Me Pilgrim

Greetings. 

You can call me Pilgrim.

In 2012 I wrote a series of essays at the Laity Lodge website, mostly about my spiritual journey in the months after I left the church I had pastored for eighteen years. If you read any of those essays, you might have wondered how Pilgrim was making a living.

And that would be a good question. When a seminary trained, professional minister decides that he or she no longer wishes to be employed by a church, what is it like to move to the world of secular employment?

In 2013 I’ll be writing about my vocational transition here at the High Calling.

My father was a pastor, so I grew up in the world of church employment. And my dad was traditional in the sense that he went to seminary, got ordained, and worked for various churches until he retired. I felt a call to vocational ministry at age seventeen and assumed my life would unfold much like my father's. That calling was celebrated by the church I grew up in and set the course for the next three decades of my life.

The first decade was dedicated to training. Four years at Baylor University, majoring in religion and minoring in New Testament Greek. I graduated in the Spring and started seminary that Fall. Three and a half years later I received a Master of Divinity degree. I then spent eighteen months of Clinical Pastoral Education as a chaplain in a hospital in Dallas.

Nine years of education to prepare me to be a pastor. Then I was hired by a church as an associate pastor in 1990. I became the pastor in 1992 and remained there until 2010.

Ten years of education. Twenty years of service. I assumed I would continue being a pastor until I was in my 70s. Maybe longer. In my mind, I was set apart and called into vocational ministry. The world of secular employment was not my world.

But things don’t always turn out the way we plan, do they? 

In my case, something happened inside of me. If you and I were having lunch together and I got the feeling that you wanted to hear the whole story, I could talk about being an introverted person in an extroverted role. I might tell you what happens when the answers you are preaching on Sunday morning aren’t working in your own life on Monday night. I would probably say something about the long-term effects of being a spiritual icon for a community of people.

But really, I could sum it all up this way: I didn’t want to be a pastor anymore. I didn’t cut and run at the first sign of trouble. I assume my long tenure in one church is evidence of that. For two years I struggled with my growing dissatisfaction. I took a sabbatical. I prayed. I thought and talked with trusted friends. I came to believe that it was time for me to do something else. 

So I left and went into the world to find a new life.

Look at that last sentence. It says a lot about the way I used to see things. I LEFT and went into THE WORLD to find a new life. That's how many professional ministers see things. The church is a walled city. Outside is "The World." I suppose some of what I'll be writing about is how that division of sacred and secular no longer makes sense to me.

It wasn’t easy. There were financial ramifications and hard lessons to learn. But I am still here. I am alive and working and making a living. And on Sundays I go to church - not because I’m paid to but because I want to.

I'm happy and content with my new life. In 2013, I’m going to write about my journey from pastor to...person.

Pilgrim

 

Image by Grant Harder. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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