We closed on our house this week and moved in. The moving van arrived only two days after we did. All in all, everything was very smooth and we love our new house. My mom keeps saying that you know it’s what God wants when everything falls into place … like God makes mortgage companies work efficiently or gives us unbelievably nice previous owners, because this is “the right “ place for me. I guess I just don’t think that’s the way “call” works. I know lots of pastors who have had extremely difficult moves and they don’t have any less of a call to their church or position.
Today I was privileged to participate in two installations: The Rev. Nancy Birdsong was installed as pastor of the Bound Brook Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Courtney Cromie was installed as the pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Jackson. Both, it appears, are great calls … good fits of pastor and congregation.
The right call is like marrying the right guy. As romantic as the concept of “soul mate” is, I know there are many people with whom I could have reasonably and lovingly chosen to spend my life. And there are also many jobs that would have been a good fit. Recognizing a call is about knowing yourself … your gifts, your passions, your skills, your growing edges … and being in a place that uses them, encourages them, and hones them. I know I’m called to this position as Regional Presbyter, not because of the persistence of the PNC, the gut feeling I had the first time Myrlene (the PNC chair) called, or the remarkable (relative) ease of the move itself, but because I know myself and I learned about the presbyteries. I’m convinced that my experiences and core values, my leadership abilities and my vision for the future fit not only the job description, but the dream and desire of the presbyteries. AND … and this is important … I had to know that I could fall in love with you … that’s call.
While I am grateful for the call “package” you have offered me, I also realize that call is hardly ever about a paycheck but about the work we do. Many pastors are finding paychecks harder and harder to find within the Church, and many churches are finding it difficult to raise the money to pay a full-time pastor. We see pastors moving to new communities for reasons other than a job with a church, and they need to find their call, their vocation, and their work for the kingdom within that new community. It may or may not be a job that pays. They may get a paycheck from driving a school bus, but find their call in counseling with parents in a low-income area, or gathering a living room full of spiritual seekers and engaging in Bible study together. I think our understanding of call in the church will need to be both stretched and deepened as we move into the future.
How do you know you’re called to a job or a ministry? In what ways do you see the call changing as we move into the future?