It’s Saturday afternoon. Do you know what your worship plans are?
I used to know my worship plan every week. Come Saturday afternoon, pastors of congregations have worship already planned for the next day. A sermon will be ready to go by Sunday, and so will the pastor/preacher. That’s the plan.
Until . . . the pastor is not currently serving a congregation.
For 21+ years, this ordained minister knew on Saturday what my worship plans were for Sunday. The easiest part of my Sunday worship plans were “where to go” and “when to be there.” No decision required.
And then came the Sunday when I no longer had a congregation to serve.
I completed my most recent interim pastorate on January 25. After that, six Sundays happened without making a plan to worship with a congregation somewhere.
[I just counted up the Sundays. I would have guessed there had been at least 10 Sundays already. I am super-relieved to count only six.]
Here’s what happened — no excuses:
The first Sunday, I was in Portland, Oregon visiting the grandsons and their parents.
The second Sunday, I was en route to the annual RevGalBlogPals Big Event, my annual continuing education cruise. [You betcha!] To be precise, I arrived in Jacksonville on Saturday, and spent that Sunday relaxing and enjoying the other early-bird RevGals before most arrived later that day. We set sail on Monday. You know, come to think of it, we did worship together twice on the boat. It was very good, very real worship with Holy Communion and singing and praying and everything.
[So, could that mean I was caught up at this point?]
The next Sunday I was preparing — they call it “prepping” — for Monday’s medical procedure-slash-test — you know, that one that tends to come around once every five or ten years. [I’m not going to spell it out!]
The next three Sundays are fuzzier memories. Somewhere in there I had ten days of bronchitis that really kicked my you-know-what. [I’m not gonna spell that out either.]
So, here I am on Saturday, stressing about making worship plans, the kind of worship plans that not-pastors make:
Will I go? Or will I put it off just one more Sunday?
Where to go?
The early service or later?
Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to get up and get dressed and hair and . . . ?
How will it be to be . . . a visitor?
[As honest as these anxiety-laced questions are, this all sounds a little lame. If a church-loving experienced pastor can’t get herself into a worship service without tell-tale visitor angst . . . You know, it is easier from the robed-pastor point of view. “Our church is so friendly.” Yeah, but will you welcome me? “Our worship service is great!” Yeah, but what do you call “great”?]
If there was a church in Baton Rouge of my denomination — the United Church of Christ — the decision would be made. UCC is who I am, all the way. Alas, the nearest UCC church is 60-70 miles away.
[Making the trip could be a test of true faithfulness? Don’t even!]
The Committee on Ministry next week will grant me “leave of absence” status. They also will determine how this not-at-the-moment pastor will fulfill the Manual on Ministry expectation that I actively participate in a UCC congregation. Likely scenario: I will “park” my membership in a distant UCC church where I can’t be an active participant, and I’ll participate more actively in a nearby church of a different stripe.
Bible Belt mainline congregations, especially in the deep [very deep!] South are a dubious fit for a liberal not-actively-serving-at-the-moment female pastor. I suspect that I will be more at home in the local MCC congregation, or the Unitarian church, or the Unity Spiritual Center. [Unity’s Google entry calls them Unity Church of Christianity, so maybe . . . ?] They are all located about the same convenient distance from me. I know that our UCC has some ties with MCC and the Unitarians.
What to do?
I am planning to do what pastor-me would advise someone like me to do:
Get back in the habit! Six weeks could easily become ten weeks, and then summer’s over, and then — don’t we know? — here comes Advent!
I’ve heard that the best way to stick to a plan requiring a new discipline is to tell someone. Whether or not this ever gets read by anyone, I’m saying it here:
I’ve made worship plans for tomorrow. I’m going to church.