I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what ministry entails – how we identify it,  how we learn it and re-learn it, how we share our expertise, and how we are: with our colleagues, in our various environments, and with people who are on board with us and with those who are sailing on other ships.

This month, I thought I’d share three posts which have spoken to me, and why they hit home with such accuracy. Maybe you’ll find something here as well?

When I was first called to a church three years ago, my executive presbyter (the person leading our geographically local community of churches) often served in a coaching role – for me personally, for our little cohort of first-call pastors, and for our presbytery. She was a marvelous role model for re-thinking church and growing in ministry, and I am sure that I grew as a pastor in multiple ways that would not have been possible without her thoughtful, energizing, passionate assistance.

When I arrived at my new church a year ago, the session was in the process of working with a consultant whom they had asked to assist with leadership and communication issues. He, too, was a tremendous resource for me as I began to learn a new congregation and as we tumbled into financial crisis. Thanks to my experiences with both of those individuals, I have felt comfortable seeking counsel from various leaders in the Presbytery on an ad hoc basis, but I would so benefit from regular and consistent consultation with a coach-cheerleader-challenger

What about you? Do you have a coach? Does your congregation? Wouldn’t it be great if we all had one? Take a look at what Jan has to say on this topic in A Church For Starving Artists.

Ministry as friendship both creative and subversive? Lately I have been thinking about making a poster for myself, a visual reminder of the phrases which speak to me about what ministry is. My life seems impossibly fragmented some days, spread as it is among congregation, college teaching, spiritual direction, household, family, friends, and medical matters. I need to see and hear, again and again, words which remind me of what it is that I’m trying to do.

Thus I appreciated Rosa’s recent post in which she sifts through a similarly dispersed life to find the center that holds in a life filled with family challenges, a far-flung ministry involving Skype and airports, surprising opportunities for bodily presence and sacramental celebration, early morning apple butter making, and a conversation which encapsulates ministry into a phrase both comforting and challenging. My own tendency is to retreat behind closed doors in response to the demands on my life, but Rosa is all about flinging the doors wide open. Las Puertas Abiertas de Par en Par is a marvelous saga of life changes being lived well.


During the last hour of my stepmother’s life some years ago, her nurse asked whether we would like her to call a chaplain. My father hastily responded, ”No,” and that was that.   I am sure that had a chaplain materialized (as would have been the case, without anyone asking, in the hospital where I did my CPE), he would have said, “I don’t believe in God.” He might have also said, in the most gentlemanly way he could have mustered, “Please go away.”

It would have been a different matter, perhaps, had Stacy, otherwise known as Chaplain Jesus Lady, been on duty that night.  Stacy covers “G is for God” in her series on the alphabet of hospital chaplaincy, and talks about exactly the scenario I’ve described.  When I was in seminary, one of my classmates commented one day at lunch, as we discussed future possibilities in ministry, that “the hospital is the new church.” Stacy’s post is an excellent reminder of how much ministry there is to be done where God is present but unrecognized.

Have other recent posts caused you to ponder events and conundrums in your own life?  Feel free to add them to the comments!

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