I have been a pastor since I was 23 years old. I thought about putting I have been serving as a pastor, but the reality is that being a pastor is part of who I am. I have been honored to serve in 11 churches in one form or another. At each of them I have loved the people who attended. In fact,it is the love I have for the people that makes me willing to step into the hard conversations. It is the reason I am willing to talk about my feelings on homosexuality. It is why I am willing to figure out budgets when my bigger gift is being creative. It is why I will do the hard work of visioning and goal setting, work that is not as unifying as one might think. It is not because I particularly like any of those things. I do it because of the people I serve who I love.
It is this reality that is making this time of quarantine during Covid-19 difficult. I am still setting budgets, visioning, goal setting, preaching sermons, leading worship, offering pastoral care over the phone, and leading Bible study online. I am still proclaiming a message of hope when some days I wonder about God’s plan. You see, lately I have been feeling like I am doing it without my flock.
There is a scripture passage in Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7 about a shepherd who has 100 sheep. One wonders off and the shepherd goes and looks for that one. I can imagine that shepherd goes looking, knowing he (shepherds were traditionally male in Jesus time) might have to go rock climbing. He might have to face down a wolf or other predator of sheep. He would take any and all risks needed to find that sheep and bring it home. He might have even known the name of the sheep. I understand that shepherd. Most people do not know how many tears are shed by a pastor when they lose a member of the church.
So, imagine how hard it is right now for pastors. Why? Because I am not sure how most of the sheep of my flock are doing. I see some at meetings but it is not the same. I am ready to go and search but I am just not even sure what direction to go. I kind of feel like a shepherd without a flock.
This does not mean I do not have people to serve and care for, this is more about the uncertainty of these times. I have not had worship inside the church since March 16th. I am not sure when we will be back inside. We are meeting outside and it helps,but it is not the same. We are meeting online and there are amazing blessings to that. But it is not the same. And now the question is when we can come back together, who will show up? Who went to the church that opened already? Who got frustrated with my choices and left and I do not even know yet. What is coming? Are there people who are lost that I need to be searching for?
I do not write this for anyone to fix it. (I admit that I would want to fix it.) I write this to help me understand why I have been feeling so down. Why I am constantly tired and sit in my office wondering what to do next. So, if you are attending a church you might just say an extra prayer for your pastor. Let them know you have not given up on them or the church. I know they are saying an extra prayer for you and have not given up on you, no matter how much they have not been in touch. Thanks for letting me share this. I know this time is hard for us all. If you want to respond with your journey, please do. But in doing so please remember to acknowledge we all matter, our feelings, emotions, and experiences on this crazy journey of life. By the way, I’m never to busy for your phone call.