as i raised them, i carved out a sort of work like for myself, staking claim to a small room at the top of the stairs that was supposed to be the 'nursery' in the house we bought 25 years ago. it soon grew into my office, with built-in book shelves and a Pottery Barn desk with room for all of my files, a small closet where i could store all the accouterments needed for the life of a writer at home.
i loved this life, getting out of the office long enough to meet with writing students or interview very cool folk, but knowing i could retreat to my space by the end of the school day and collect whatever jewels my children chose to share with me about their day.
and then, college happened.
just about that time, my church called a new priest, a young man whom i might have babysat if i'd lived in his neighborhood— he was that young. but in time, he began to build a team of people who would lead him through a period of tremendous growth for our church. some of these wonderful folks were already at work there. others joined their ranks a few years in, tapped by my priest because he found them to have a particular talent he felt we needed.
when he approached me about joining the staff for communications, i was reticent. i loved my freelance work, my free time, going to church but having little responsibility for it besides my monthly pledge. but then he took me to lunch and talked about that 'call' thing, and well, that got me, so i signed on.
i had not worked in an office with anyone since 1981, and in those first months, i found myself in a tiny corner spot filled with somebody else's filing cabinets. then he hired another, and the two of us picked out a soft purple color to paint the cinderblock walls of our new 'office.' he hired another and another, all i imagine taking them to that important lunch when he talked about 'call' and 'purpose' and leaving no room for 'no' in the conversation.
today we are a team, communicators and administrators and financial folks and children and youth ministry folk, priests and others, all of us forging deep friendships as we go about what i have truly grown to understand is a ministry.
i think too often when people here the word 'ministry', they think of hands folded, voices low, whispering in serious tones. grief.
and where i work, of course there is that, but.
we gather around the table at our weekly staff meetings, and we begin with prayer, surely. but as the meeting progresses, we might be asked who we are in the Star Wars trilogy, our favorite song from the Sound of Music, or we might find ourselves breaking out in song to the theme song from Mary Tyler Moore. there is method to this madness (the MTM thing grew from a discussion about the preaching rotation (or ROTA), which morphed into 'Rhoda' and of course most of us are of the generation who would remember that Rhoda was MTM's best friend. that meeting ended when our newest priest took his collar and tossed it to the air. (no irreverence intended, to be sure)
who does this at work?
i hope everybody.
i love these people. and i hope everybody has staff meetings like ours, because it's therapeutic, particularly for those of us in ministry work. (and by that i don't mean ordained ministry, b/c 90 percent of our staff is not 'ordained'. but we have been called, to be sure.
and the joy of it is, we leave our staff meetings laughing, ready to take on the sadness many of our parishioners share with us daily, and maybe to offer them some hope. we are there to listen, to make copies for them, to share lunch and conversation, break bread in communion, to hear them out, even, when they think we are not doing our jobs.
tonight we gathered with the leadership of our parish to celebrate the end of what has been a challenging year — january brought a heart attack and open heart surgery for our priest. and each month that passed brought further challenges, either for our parish or for the Church at large. and because of the people i work with, we met the challenge.
tonight i want to thank these people (only a few of whom are pictured here) for welcoming me, for being my friend and for being a minister to me. blame the MTM song on the guy who photobombed the picture.
but be sure of this: love is all around, don't need to waste it, you can have the town why don't you take it? you're gonna make it after all.
try singing it. see what happens.
(tossing a priest's collar is optional of course.)
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