What does it mean to be called — part 8: Friends Memorial

Friends Memorial has been in a transitional period. Working with them, and including my sense of calling has been both challenging, and again an exercise in simplicity. The biggest challenge I have faced is that I wrote my job description with little input from the community. While this has given me a great deal of freedom, many people who could have used me as a resource did not. Too often, I spent my office hours doing homework, while someone else unknown to me was working on a project alone, in frustration.

What Muncie did communicate to me was their desire to become more active in the Friends community, they also expressed a desire to find ways to encourage and help smaller meetings. I found much meaning in these community calls, as I was able to put together a wider Friends learning opportunity, and currently I am involved in a project that might be helpful to both smaller meetings, and to those who feel called to vocal ministry, but have trouble finding a space to exercise that calling. My time at Muncie has been filled pursuing one or another of these projects. Not only have I had a chance to work on a proposal, but I have also on one occasion provided pulpit supply at a smaller meeting.

There have been opportunities to preach, an opportunity to design and teach a Sunday school class, and diverse “pastoral care” opportunities. I freely admit, I am much more in my element planning or setting up an event, organizing resources, or writing a sermon or study material than I am in a pastoral care opportunity. I like to think I’m a good listener, and I know people will talk to me when they are “down,” but reaction to pastoral care events is different than working on a project or an event. After an event, I can see what went well — after someone comes to me with personal problems, I worry about what might have gone badly. However, there is something fulfilling about the opportunity to share the hard parts of people’s life. I would miss those opportunities if they never happened — one might say, I take this pastoral role very seriously. I know I do not have the emotional energy to fill it constantly, as a chaplain would, yet, I feel drawn to listen when I can.

Most of all, Friends memorial has been an opportunity to try on the pastoral shirt again. It has also been a chance to re-evaluate the assumptions that I held ten years ago, and to recognize that the elements of pastoral ministry that I had rejected were not as definitive as I once thought they were. I experienced Muncie as an invitation to reclaim vocation.

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Postscript:  My final sermon at Friends Memorial was on vocation.  Consider this sermon a companion to my extended meditation on what it means to be called.

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