A wide spot in my imagination.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leaving Church

Leaving church.

It's Monday.

Most ministers I know consider leaving church. Especially on Mondays. Sundays are hard work. Weird hard work. Not like digging ditches or hauling hay or shoveling manure. I've done those things. Preaching is more like standing naked in front of a crowd, wearing a blindfold so you can't see how folks are responding to your nakedness.

So, you put in your hard work, then someone calls you on Monday to complain that their committee's meeting time was incorrect in the bulletin. Regardless of the facts that: a) You don't type the bulletin; and b) the incorrect information the bulletin-typer used was passed along (incorrectly!) from the self-same complaining caller.

A pastor-friend of mine says he is a full-fledged Christian on Sunday mornings, an atheist on Mondays, an agnostic on Tuesdays, a critic on Wednesdays, but by Saturdays, he's talked himself into believing again.

Back to leaving church.

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote an autobiographical little book by that title last year or the year before or so. It describes her move from pastor to professor. Despite the title, Rev. Preacher Ms. Taylor didn't really leave church. She just got a new gig down the road, teaching at a seminary. She moved from one church job to another kind of church job.

A friend of mine, though, really did leave church. After 25 years as a pastor -- the thing he felt called to do in high school and set out to do ever since then -- he just quit. He served in little-bitty, clapboard churches in the country. He worked at a lovely, old rock-building, pointy-steeple church in the big city. He settled into a very fine, intriguing, interesting congregation that fit him like a glove. He loved to preach. He enjoyed the counseling sessions. The pay was good. His co-workers were engaging. His spouse and family supported their husband-daddy-minister. The church grew. His denomination applauded him. People cared for him, made thoughtful replies to his sermons, encouraged him to take sabbaticals.

Then, he quit. Considered his life and his life's work, his vocation and his avocation, his calling and his career. And he quit. Cold turkey. No new job, no gig down the street, no skeletons chasing him from the closet, no book contract. No crisis of faith. No nothing. Just a mortgage to pay, kids to send to college, and a sense it was the right thing to do.

He left.

He told me it was because his soul ached. So he left church.

Wow. Made we wonder. Would I be brave enough to do that? Would you?

Not just leave church necessarily. But leave anything that seems to fit? Would we leave the certain for the uncertain? Would we?

1 comment:

  1. Nice, Tim. Yea, it is something. What? I don't know yet. And the strange thing? I'm at peace with this. Me! The worrier, the bill-payer, the planner, I'm at peace with this uncertainty. For how long? Now that is the question!!!!! :-)

    Miss you guys!