For the first thirty years of my life, I struggled to find one place where I could direct my time and resources in order to tend to the things I most cared about. That’s because there were so many things I cared about that, on the surface, seemed completely unrelated. As a result, I found myself constantly split in so many different directions.
I found myself devoting my time to so many different causes. I would spend a couple nights a week at church, for instance, directing our church choir and attending a Bible study. I would spend another evening in a board meeting helping out with a charitable cause or on a campaign that would further a cause in which I believed. I would spend another night at a lecture on an important topic I cared deeply about.
The same thing happened with my limited financial resources. I would send a few dollars to a group advocating for human rights. Later, I would send a few dollars to support a local or national candidate in whom I believed. Then, I would then save my pennies so I could attend a cultural event that was sponsored by a non-profit I supported.
For those first 30 years I was always on the go. I was ALWAYS busy and engaged. Sadly, I was always haunted by the nagging frustration that I was never doing enough. Never giving enough. 😦
It wasn’t until I answered the call to attend seminary and began my preparations for parish ministry that I realized there actually WAS a place in my life where all of my interests – spirituality, public policy, advocacy, and the arts – came together. And that place for me was the church.
Over the years, I watched as the communities God called me to serve did amazing things. I watched as one church dedicated vacant space on their property to create a community garden – which brought residents of the city together to care for God’s earth. I watched as our church first gathered donations to stock the shelves at the local foodbank – and then provide volunteers to help get the food out to those in need. I watched as the communities I served provided progressive spiritual formation programs that helped people of all ages grow in a variety of ways. I thrilled as a portion of each dollar I put into the offering plate at my current ministry site goes in a number of directions ranging from a domestic violence shelter, to a community-based Nursery school program, to a mission program in Peru, to a denominational camping program that nurtures children from throughout Southern California and Nevada. I watched as our church welcomed community theatre groups first rehearse and then perform on our campus: bringing an expression of the arts into our neighborhood. I glory as our church opens its doors twice a year to host meetings for a local chapter of a non-partisan organization that works hard to form sensible public policies to end gun violence. My heart soars every time I watch community members flow into one of our rooms for a 12 Step meeting that helps liberate those whose lives had been nearly lost to some form of addiction. Most folks who do not participate in the life of a local church have no clue about how much goes on in our community – how many needs are being met – because of our local churches!
The more I invested my time and energy into ministry, the less I was haunted by the nagging fear that I wasn’t doing or giving enough. Serving the needs of my local community – and of the entire planet – became so much easier, I found, when I focused my time and energy in one place: and then set about working tirelessly to ensure that place grew in its desire to address the needs of the world. TOGETHER, I am reminded every day in ministry, we can do AMAZING things!
This ability to focus my time and resources in one place that has the ability to transform the world in so many, many, many ways is my fourth reason for wanting to stay in parish ministry.