I am writing my Faith Matters column for the Jamestown Gazette from a small room in a Catholic Retreat Center located near Philadelphia, PA. The room resembles what I imagine a prison cell is like… very small with a cot style bed, single light, tiny window and a sink in the corner. There is a sign on the door telling me to “snuff out bed fires” immediately adjacent to a sign that says “no smoking” (confusing, isn’t it?). There is no Gideon’s Bible, but the Catholics provided their own.
I’m at “Baby Pastor School” (it has an ‘official’ name but no one knows what it is). “Baby Pastor School” is mandatory continuing education for anyone in their first three years of ministry. This will be my last time here and, needless to say, I wasn’t completely thrilled about coming. The event costs money, it is a week I have to spend away from wife and daughter, and did I mention it is mandatory (people do not usually make engaging events mandatory). So I had to tell myself again and again before I arrived: Scott, choose your attitude.
Nevertheless, when I walked into opening worship this afternoon I was anything but enthusiastic. Somewhere between my room and the sanctuary I had forgotten what I told myself all along. I knew that hours of lectures and forced conversation in small groups were ahead of me. But before all that began, we did something a bit odd for a conference – we sang. (Take My Life That I May Be).
I didn’t sing at first (take that Baby Pastor School leaders!), but all around me about 100 other pastors did. And as it turned out the joke was on me.
While I pouted, others glorified God.
While I whined, others grew in community.
While I sulked, others got caught up in the Spirit.
In hindsight I don’t know what I was so afraid of. I am at an event that is specifically crafted for me, and Lord knows I could use some help. After worship I spent the afternoon and evening with colleagues who are serving churches across the Northeast United States and are in the same boat as me. We haven’t solved all of ours and the world’s problems yet, but we are a little bit closer.
I bet there are times in your life when you would rather be anywhere else- times when work feels like work, when family means drama, and when what used to be fun has become rote and routine. At those times may you embrace your situation – the good, the bad and the mandatory. May you find the strength to choose your attitude… and perhaps even sing. Maybe then…
While others pout, we can glorify God.
While others whine, we can grow in community.
While others sulk, we can be caught up in the Spirit.
In the Way,