As I look ahead to my work in pastoral care and worship through celebrating the liturgy on this last Sunday of 2017, I am reflecting on the growth and change I have experienced in the past few years. 2017 itself was one of my most challenging personal and pastoral years since 2013, which witnessed my forced termination from my Philadelphia congregation. It seems that, about every four or five years of my life since entering adulthood, a major change was happened. In 2005 I married my beautiful companion, Amanda. In 2009, I left a high-paying position with an evangelical congregation to enter the world of Anabaptism as a solo pastor in a small parish and then graduated from seminary. In 2013, I was forcibly terminated from the congregation and began my journey toward Mennonite Church USA and South Dakota. And now, in 2017, I experienced another series of profound events that I am sure will bleed into 2018 and impact my life and ministry.
Looking back at 2017, I know that I have been enriched by the difficulties I faced and the great joys I experienced, some of which are intermingled.
- I witnessed the birth of our third child, Elaina, in November, and watched my two older children grow even more as we welcomed another baby in our home.
- I was honored with serving as the local chair of our judicatory’s annual meeting in Sioux Falls. I was able to work with a fine planning team from around our conference to put together a 4-day gathering for 250 persons that was very well received. I also had the opportunity to plan and lead worship for the daily gatherings, exposing our conference to liturgy and sacrament.
- I began in earnest on my book project, still untitled and still quite a mess.
- I welcomed six new and wonderful members into my parish even as I witnessed a dear friend and co-leader in the congregation forced out by unaddressed bullying and negativity.
- Thanks to my weekly therapy sessions, I started to regain a sense of confidence and self-esteem after two death threats from my estranged father this summer. I am learning to let go of the childhood I never had and embrace the family that God has graciously given me now.
- I was able to spend much time with my in-laws, who in the absence of a relationship with my biological parents, have become a Mom and Dad to me. I am grateful for them.
Looking ahead to 2018, I am filled with anticipation about what it might hold:
- I am excited about officiating at my sister-in-law’s wedding in June, though I am not looking forward to an outdoor wedding in summer weather in Texas in full vestments.
- I am doing some discernment work about my future, and I am hoping that 2018 provides further clarity on vocation.
- I hope to strengthen my own self-worth by standing up to the bullies in my life. I’m slowly learning that forgiveness is essential but that sometimes people simply must part ways in order for there to be peace.
- I hope to finish my book (or at least make better sense of it!).
- I hope to be a better a father, a better husband, and better human.
These are the thoughts that occupy me this weekend as I prepare for the liturgy. What about you, friends? What changes and growing are you witnessing in your life? How are you embracing it?
I leave you with a bit of wisdom that I picked up from the Muppets many years ago: “Life is full of meetings and partings. That is the way of it.” What meetings do you anticipate? What partings must you accept? And how will you be transformed in the process? Greet this new year with open arms, welcoming with gratitude all you will receive and bidding farewell with grace and peace to all that you must let go.
* My Friday posts are reflections on the week in ministry that will propel me into pastoral care through the liturgy on Sunday. While it is primarily oriented toward pastors and lay congregational leaders, there will likely be something for everyone in it. I do draw on my past experience and occasionally reference my current pastoral assignment for case studies and examples; however, no names are used for the sake of confidentiality and respect.