A Day in the Life

A day (election day, that is) in the life of a bi-vocational local church pastor trying to strike a balance in the intersection of faith and public life.

5:30:    Woke up in time to open up the church for the arriving poll workers.

5:45:    Enthusiastically invited the poll workers in, thanking them for their civil service, proud that my church gets to be part of the democratic process. Found myself immediately ignored by poll workers as they busily rearranged the fellowship hall and complained about the lack of a coffee station. Filed away the possibility of setting up coffee for poll workers in the corner next year. Regretted not having changed the bulletin board, which is the same as it was last time they were here.

6:00:    Drove to judicatory job in the suburbs, the job that provides health care, a real salary, and affirmation of gifts. (Different than church job, which provides pulpit supply money and a 650-square foot apartment in the basement with a humidity level of 72%.)

6:30:    Stopped at Starbucks. Complimented man in line on his US flag tie. Began to worry that some crisis will emerge that renders me unable to vote before the polls close back at church.  7:00:    Talked with boss about Missional ministry in our region, and spreading the word. Talked about churches fighting each other, not engaging their communities, dying. Talked about having him come to my church to help them realize they’re dying, too. Talked about whether I should switch from a transformation strategy to a new church start strategy, because my folks have been through too much by now to have the energy to transform.

7:30    Searched hopelessly for the notes from a phenomenal planning meeting to create a course on adMinistry for churches in this state.

8:00    Having not found the notes, sent out an email to other planners with my best memory of the outline generated in that meeting a month ago so the project stays on schedule.

8:30    Looked online for a good activist organization in my neighborhood for guidance on how to vote on this year’s ballot initiatives. Prepared to print. Paused. Wondered if printing a voter guide on judicatory printers is legal. Left window open.

9:00    Climbed in car with two other judicatory staff for the soul-healing work of a healthy pastoral relations committee. Tried to let go of the fact that my local church’s members are all in crisis; they don’t have the ability to create a PRC for me right now.

9:30-1:30    Listened, reflected, shared, healed, laughed, wept with partners in ministry and the PRC who held me gently and encouraged and offered wisdom. Acknowledged the pain of doing judicatory ministry in life-giving ways while knowing that the institution of judicatory bodies might be (of necessity) dying. Noted that the most we can do is figure out how to live well now, knowing we may have to figure out how to die well soon.

1:30    Got back in car. Discussed how to heal churches in crisis in region. Felt competent and useful. Ignored mild panic that something would stop me from voting. Asked how colleagues voted on ballot initiatives; realized they used the voter guide from
a statewide Christian organization on whose board I sit. Felt mortified that it never crossed my mind to use that guide but instead went to a local secular activist organization for guidance. Paused, then told myself I’m being Missional.

2:00    Printed out voter guide. Sent emails, all the while wondering if I should leave work and vote before they shut down a highway or I got hit by a bus and couldn’t vote.

3:30    Gave up on working and went home, by way of the gym.

4:30    Stopped working out when it occurred to me I could get hit in the head by a weight, rendering me unable to vote.

4:55    Went to polling place. Got hit on by homeless guy selling Street Spirit newspaper.

5:00    Voted. Looked at the old man in a yarmulke joking with the middle aged black man wearing a “Juneteenth” tee shirt and chatting with the old Korean man and young Chinese man at my polling place. Thought, “I love voting. I love America.”

5:15    Fed ballot through machine. Beamed as Korean man says, “You did good!” Took the “I voted” sticker.

5:30    Got a call from a friend asking for help with phone calls to Get Out the Vote, which I’d been avoiding because I didn’t want someone to realize who I am and think I’m using my religious authority to persuade them to vote for my candidate. Realized that in a city of 400,000, only 500 at most know who I am. Went downtown to Get Out the Vote.

6:00    Realized my cell phone is paid for by the judicatory. Wondered if I’m breaking the law by calling people to vote for a candidate while using that phone. Decided that since minutes are unlimited, I wouldn’t worry about it.

8:00    Went to election party for candidate.

8:05    Received a call whose number I didn’t recognize.

8:10    Met spouse of the candidate and explained I’d done as much to support the candidate as I’m legally allowed to do as a pastor. Realized I sound like a geek.

9:30    Noticed I’d missed three calls from a person whose non-profit rents space in our building. Listened to voicemail and realized I’d forgotten to lock up the building after voting finished. Reflected on the fact that the woman calling has had food from her food pantry stolen during a recent break-in. Reflected on the fact that the woman calling agreed to help with a Halloween event for the neighborhood and, when none of our congregants took the lead, ended up running it mostly by herself. Reflected on the fact that I was the one who encouraged her to move in with talk of partnership and creating peace in the city. Reflected on the fact that by leaving the doors unlocked, I had just given criminals total access to the building after spending $10,000 on a security system following three break-ins within a month.

9:35    Went back to church and locked up building.

9:50    Walked around building to the apartment entrance. Found a couple with lawn chairs, bottles of Miller and a blunt sitting in the entrance to my apartment. Asked (trying to be polite) if there’s anything they needed. Guy looked me up and down and said, “Anything YOU need?! You the one steppin’ up on us!” Continued to pretend to be polite as I said I live here, I’m the pastor of this church. Guy backed down, apologized, asked if they should leave. Said no, not at all, enjoy; lied that the only reason I asked was because people sometimes drop by because they need to talk. Started toward entrance; paused and remembered to turn back and introduced myself.

10:30     Realized that my mentor would have grabbed some sodas and gone out to get to know his neighbors. Realized I’m still learning how to do urban ministry.

12:00    Got into bed. Thought about how by 2012, the church will be doing this better, and I will be doing this better, or both will be gone.

4 replies
  1. parodie
    parodie says:

    I loved this article. It made me feel normal and less alone in the struggles and confusion of growing into new roles. Thank you so much – what a gift.

  2. Jane
    Jane says:

    Thanks for this great article on the realities of bivocational ministry. May God bless you and your ministries and give you abundant energy!


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