From the other side of the railing
This is an offering from a priest who is not currently exercising her ministry in a parish.
Having had periods of time when I was not assigned to a specific parish (as I currently am as The , I can certainly relate to her experience, of mixed emotions, the sense of being out of place and the longing for connection.
Thank you, Susan, for sharing this piece with the readers of MOLC! May Eastertide joy envelope you as you exercise your ministry in your day to day life and to whatever parish you may be called! In the love of Christ, DJ
Musings of an Out of Work Priest
April 9, 2007 Easter Monday
It is Easter Monday and normally I’d be feeling the relief and let down of another Holy Week gone by. I’d be hearing the bits of sermon that I thought worked—and those moments when I was just dismayed and embarrassed that something had gone wrong. The exhaustion of the week and the elation of the Easter proclamation would have left me by now.
But currently I am not working: having just left a parish as an interim priest for two and a half years, I found myself needing to escape home so that I would not be left with the empty feeling of not being needed by God to do what I think I do well (at least that is what I think in my good moments).
So a last minute trip was planned—Newport, RI—a place that has many memories—more than I initially remembered:
That first trip with our son as a toddler, trying to climb the indoor putting green without losing his balance and then running down the other side. It seems impossible that that visit was 28 years ago!
And there were later visits as a corporate wife doing the corporate wife 'thing'—wandering the streets alone while the "big guys" had their meetings followed by an outing on Americas’ Cup boats so that those same men could prove their worth by beating their competitors—even if those competitors all worked for the same team!
Then there were the boat shows—in rain and sun—wandering among the boats to dream a new dream of freedom (and safety) on the seas.
And God, well, somehow God was there - somewhere in the background - but little thought of in those distant days.
Years later I am off on an Easter escape, a quest, and the need to find a place—my place among the Easter people. I called three churches but only one gave the times of services so I picked that one, thinking that will help me find God and, of course, it did.
Somehow as I walked in alone, I felt self-conscious as though I didn’t belong. It is not my "place"—and I realize just how much I have missed having a place to call home. It is not that I want to claim it so much as to be part of it. As clergy, and as one who does the kind of interim work I do, somehow I have managed to keep a distance between me and somewhere I can call a spiritual home. I realize that 'my' place is really "their" place and I stay long enough to be part of them, knowing that I will move on at some point. Not having to make that long term commitment to be with a parish permanently through thick and thin, means that I don’t have to live that hard life of commitment to a place and a group of people. As an interrim, my sense of place stays rooted in family and friends and God—not a church or particular congregation.
But now I digress.
I walked into the church in Newport, knowing that I needed to be there on an Easter Day and hoping to find music and trumpets and "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."
And that is what I found.
Dropping my sadness about being alone for a few moments, I also attempted to let go of my judgmental look at the bulletin, and the clergy, and in doing so find that even my inner isolation cannot wall off the risen Jesus. It may sound trite and sentimental, but for a few moments, I smell the Easter Lilies and taste the bread—real bread I am pleased to say—and find that I can let go of having to be anything but me. It even pleases me to find that the priest presiding at the Eucharist is also an interim and may have shared, or at least been aware of those same joys and sorrows I have felt ----along with all that means.
When the service was over, I walked back to my car and heard the birds sing. Through the cold spring day and the wind blowing though my coat, I felt the sun and for a moment let go of it all.
Once again, there is the miracle of new life entering these tired bones.