Worship the second Sunday of July was wonderful. We returned to Hyde Park United Methodist, the church we were going to when I received my call to ministry, and later worked at as a Campus Minister. It was wonderful to be home, to know most of the people in worship, to worship with 50-60 other friends and to hear a sermon about going home. God is so good. Being in leadership one sometimes forgets or doesn’t always get to that place where worship is possible, at least not in the context of the worship services we lead. It is the kind of church we would go to if I weren’t a pastor.
I’ve heard the stories about reentry, where pastors have trouble worshipping when they are not in charge of the service. I wondered, and pastor Cheryl asked after the service, “so how is it going?” with that knowing question behind the question, “are you making the adjustment ok?” Yes and I am.
“What will you do?” is the usual question. Logistical Support, is my current reply, different from when I first began talking about this leave of absence. Then I was anticipating a study of the indigenous worship practices of the Christian Church, a study I still have plans for, but also to take drum lessons, and rest from seven years of pastoral leadership.
I’ve been surprised how easy it has been not to be a pastor. Mostly I’ve been surprised by how few phone calls, and emails I’ve received. Maybe its because folks know we’re going to Africa, maybe its because I have no responsibility to the church, but for whatever the reason it is a lesson I assume that men only learn much later in life, when they retire, how they had structured their meaning of life around their work, and when there was no longer work to define them, they wonder…now what.
Suzanne remarks that I am becoming the “old steve” the one she fell in love with, the one pastor Steve supplanted. Personally, I’m not sure what she means, though I suspect it means that I’m more connected to this world, to this family, and not always thinking about the next thing and church. I remember a story that Bill Hybels tells about his daughter wanting to tell him something very important, and when he felt like he didn’t have the time, to hear her say “That’s OK daddy, I’ll just wait when you can listen real slow”. I don’t know if I’m listening any slower these days, but I have so much more time to.
This week after spending month packing, we are finally leaving for the East Coast after a few days in New Orleans. Here we have revisited old haunts, and are happy to see a city that is rebuilding itself after a tragic man-made disaster. They say “We survived the hurricane, but not the floods.” Sunday afternoon after attending St. Mark’s United Methodist Church we went on the Post Katrina tour. There we spent three hours seeing what can only be understood when seen firsthand. I was sad, but thankful that they give tours of the areas. I’ve posted a few pictures of our time here on our Yahoo Photo’s Page.
We were happy that many of places we’ve come to appreciate were not affected by the storm, places like Central Grocery’s Muffaletta, Ralph and Kukkos gumbo, Café Du Monde, Johnnies Po-Boy’s. The storm seems to be the main topic of conversation. I would have thought that people would have tired of talking about it, but it seems to be the first thing we talk about. For example, on Sunday there was a guest preacher (whom I had met four years ago at a conference in Houston) and he opened with how everything had changed, for him, for the church, and it connected him instantly to the congregation.
What I see is a city trying to rebuild itself, and trying not to be defined by a storm that almost wiped it out. Yet, that is the connection that ties it to the world and there is a feeling of gratefulness that we are here, and that a world worked so hard to help.