Friday, July 1, 2016

On Leave from Call

One of the wonderful things about Facebook is that it's allowed me to reconnect with many people from college days--classmates whose company I enjoyed, but we weren't close enough to stay in touch after college.  I've been amazed by how many of us went on to seminary at some point and became pastors.

I know a lot of pastors, both classmates from college, people I've met on retreat, people I've met through a variety of church work.  Just last Sunday, a woman asked me if I've ever considered becoming a pastor.  When I said yes, she said, "You'd be very good at it."

Over the past year or two, I've noticed how many pastors seem to be going on leave from call.  Will they return?  What will the Holy Spirit call them to do?

One former classmate who graduated with me is going on leave from call after a year of ferocious health crises for both him and his wife.  They want to move to be closer to family, including grandchildren.  I am astonished that classmates of mine have grandchildren--aren't we all just 27 years old?

I am also staggered when I make a list of all of my friends and acquaintances enduring health crises.  Aren't we too young for these kinds of grown up diseases?

I am also staggered when I make a list of all of my friends and acquaintances enduring job crises.  Some are lucky enough to be in a profession that makes provisions for these kinds of times, provisions like going on leave from call.

I'm also thinking about the whole idea of "the call," the way it has traditionally been perceived, and alternate ways of thinking about it.  Traditionally, if you talk to most pastors, they can tell you about their call. Most professions allow you to blunder in sideways, but not ministry, at least not in the main-line Protestant churches. You’re expected to be able to talk about the time you heard God calling you to ministry.

God calls us in so many ways.  What would happen if we changed our language?  Instead of being on leave from call, we said something else.  It's an odd notion, after all--that we can be on leave from what God calls us to do.

What call would make us so excited that we'd never think of leaving?  And what past callings might have worked for our 22 year old selves, but need to be forsaken by our older selves?

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