I am a minister
I woke up this morning after a wonderful night's sleep in a bunk bed in a vacation rental in San Clemente, CA. I am here at a Minister's Gathering.
I am a minister!
This still blows me away a little bit. Last night our leaders took a brief moment to thank us for answering the call. They take every opportunity to do that. Indeed, they create opportunities to do that.
On the one hand, it evokes all sorts of warm wonderful goodness in me, that they would so go out of their way to thank us every chance they get. On the other, it makes me wonder, not for the first time, what on earth I have gotten myself into. Is being a minister such a really hard job that they feel the need to get all gushy with gratitude every time they get a group of us together?
It can't be any harder than being a wedding photographer.
Let's examine this: As a wedding photographer, I have to know some things technically. How to light any given situation so that the images look good, and the people in them look good. How to pose any body shape so it looks good. How to set my f-stop and shutter and flash unit to emphasize what I want, hide what I don't, and make everything look nice and balanced. And I have to do it quickly, easily, calmly, with all that wedding energy swirling around me: protective fathers, anxious mothers, hopeful brides, and the general mood of excited yet fearful anticipation.
Not so hard. Well, not now it isn't hard. When I first began doing weddings, it was hard. My partner knew not to try and speak to me on Saturday mornings. Even though I might not have to be at a wedding till 3 that afternoon, I needed the entire morning to rest and prepare. And I would come home so tired at night that I would be in tears. Literally. It's not like that now. I've been doing that for so many years that all it takes to prepare is some meditation, some reminders about what is important, another check of my equipment, and off I go. And I've set my fstops and shutters speeds and lights so many times that I can set them up right the first time and do what I came to do: make wonderful wedding images. No matter what.
After 27 years of doing photography, I got this. And yet, I also know that, given the nature of the beast, I need to keep on my toes: to continue my studies, make sure I am physically fit enough to chase a bride up a mountain side or down to the beach, carrying 50 pounds of equipment, and I need to remember that every bride is unique and special and not take anything for granted.
As a minister, what do I do? Well, let's see. I need to know some things technically. Only it isn't a piece of equipment I need to know, it's people and spiritual principles.
I need to be able to remember and grab hold of any given spiritual principle at any moment, based on what the person in front of me has brought to the table. And I need to do it when they are in attack mode because they are having an issue in their life and instead of looking at that issue, they've made it about me. I need to remember not to take it personally.
I need to sound profound. Every Sunday, no matter what.
I need to be able to, in the middle of the grocery store aisle, set aside my shopping and answer the call of a congregant in need who needs to talk.
I need to be able to inspire a team of mostly volunteer workers, over and over again.
I need to be an effective administrator. I need to know marketing and PR.
I need to set boundaries, and keep them. I need to stay in balance. I need to continue my spiritual studies. I need to take enough time off, and know when to say "no." And I need to remember my own humanness, and not be so hard on myself when I fall short of all those very lofty "needs" I just listed.
And I need to keep physically fit, because it's a holistic thing, and if I'm not physically fit things might be a bit out of balance. And I need to remember that every person I encounter is an individual, with their own unique way of expressing things, and their own needs and wants and desires, and their own expectations of what I can or should do to meet those needs.
And I need to do it, and make a living wage, in spite of many people's expectations that I do this work for free.
Hmmmm....no matter they are always thanking me for answering the call.
And yet, there is some sort of magic here. Some sort of wonderful elusive thing that tells me I am in the right place. It tells me I can do this, it tells me I am up to the challenge. I approach this new career with excitement and energy and a joy of living and a continued search for fresh knowledge and new insights, because that is the way I approach everything in life. And they told me in ministerial school that the way I do one thing is the way I do everything.
So I'm here at my very first Minister's Gathering, excited and grateful beyond measure. Today we will have a session on having difficult conversations, and some fun with stretching our spiritual muscles with spoon bending, and a bonfire, complete with smores. And lots of fellowship, and sharing and good stuff. And yes, I am a Minister, and I am up to the task!