(A caveat: my new short-term church position is going really well. All things considered, it’s lovely. I’m happy.)
Overall, when the sun is shining and life is good, I’m quick to say that Church belongs to Jesus, and it’ll survive in spite of us.
But, there are times when I’ve been reading a bit too much about the decline of the Church: how we aren’t doing it right anymore, the pews are emptier and emptier; young adults are absent from our congregations; churches are closing; there will be fewer and fewer positions for “professional” pastors. (And, darn it, what am I supposed to do about that when I was encouraged to shoot straight from college to seminary and into the ministry? My job skills are a little limited!)
And, on top of that, I start to wonder if I am hip enough to be one of the professionals who will survive. Plus, it’s really hard sometimes to do this and be a Mom (have you heard about our horrible nanny saga?); and my baby didn’t sleep last night and I’m tired and he won’t take his afternoon nap, so I can’t catch up on phone calls or work on my sermon.
Did I mention that my husband is moving us across the country and I have to navigate a whole new region of the country and figure out if there’s a place I can serve?
And…and…and…yes, this is the anxiety speaking.
But then, I sit down at my desk, and see this little slip of paper that escaped from a pile of files I organized yesterday:
It’s the announcement of my ordination in the Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church bulletin (my home church during college and seminary). My Grandma Garry clipped it for me. She would give her grandkids envelopes of things she’d clipped, things she thought related to their lives. I think it was part of how she prayed for us. I also know that she clipped and saved those things that made her particularly proud.
And I start to think. Someone wrote that: “God’s faithful provision of leadership for the church.” Someone thought that of my, that I was God’s faithful provision. Chuck and Millie were sent on behalf of an entire congregation.
My Grandma, who grew up in a church that would never DREAM of ordaining a woman, would spit fire at anyone who suggested that her granddaughter perhaps was a little too female to be a pastor (and, spit she did, because I was ordained into a denomination that was still figuring this out while I was in seminary).
There were people who invested in a scholarship for women students at my seminary, and invested in me becoming a minister.
Not to mention other family members, the good church people, classmates, friends, mentors who affirmed my call and pushed me along the path when I wasn’t sure.
I have no idea, most days, what “church” will look like down the road. But there are a whole lot of people standing behind me who pushed me forward because they thought I was part of this faithful provision.
So I’d probably better get off my sorry, anxiety filled rear and get to work on that sermon and start thinking about polishing up my resume for some place somewhere in California that, eventually, somehow, needs someone like me.
Because I’m sure my Grandma and whole lot of other good and faithful saints would be spitting fire if I just threw up my hands in frustration.