CPL: What has been the most joyful thing about this kind of ministry?
The other side of this kind of ministry is that there’s an efficiency about it. Why not preach twice when you’ve already written the sermon!? Why not go to that meeting or get that training as a pastor for two churches? While you’re working to plan one worship service, why not plan another? It is insightful to see how pastoring 2 churches in the same way at the same time produce different and distinct results. The same preached word can take root in two very different ways among different people. Some days the sermon will flop in one church and be a success in another. I am doing the same thing but the response is incredibly different in each context.
Overall though, I find circuit pastoring much more preferable to doing bi-vocational ministry. I’d rather be balancing two churches instead of two different vocations. A circuit is a way to focus the work of a pastor to do what a pastor is really called to do. It’s necessary because of time constraints.
I am especially grateful for the lessons I’ve learned about empowering the laity. I realize how much I need them to do things, to make decisions, to take the lead on the church’s ministry. I know better what a pastor should be doing and what the laity should be doing and we have those conversations more often. Usually they shake their heads at me and say, “I better do that, you don’t have the time to get it done.” And they are right.
CPL: You are a lectionary preacher and have been for some time. Why?
Yes, I have been a lectionary preacher for 14 years now. I like preaching the lectionary because I get to preach the Church calendar – the rhythm of the story of God and God’s people. Perhaps it is strange, but I also like being told what to preach and being given a limited number of options. It makes me pay attention more to Scripture.
There are lots of weeks I think – ‘Oh no! Why did I choose this?’ Sometimes a text doesn’t give up its message easily, so there’s a lot of wrestling. But I like the sense of discovery that I get with the Lectionary - delving into passages I might not normally pause to look at. It pushes me to texts I might avoid or be uncertain about addressing. It gives me a good posture toward the Scripture – I’m listening to it and not trying to fit it into my mold. I am never quite sure where exactly things are going to land, but there is some deep listening that must happen each week. Often it is the hardest Scriptures to wrestle with that turn out to be my favorite sermons.
CPL: What are the best resources you’ve used as a lectionary preacher?
In terms of commentaries, NT Wright’s New Testament for Everyone series and Twelve Months of Sundays series are very helpful. I would also add Feasting on the Word, Texts For Preaching, and The Lectionary Commentary – 4 volume set.
For liturgy, I really have appreciated the Feasting on the Word Worship Companion. It is accessible and tied to the biblical language for the week. Song resources published by the Methodists can be found at the General Board of Discipleship website.
CPL: What does your sermon preparation usually look like?
I start Monday morning. I follow the steps Dan Boone outlines in his Preaching the Story that Shapes Us with the text I’ve chosen. I try to engage in the creative process with the text itself and let it percolate through the week. I do my creative work on Monday and also read some commentary. Wednesday morning I meet with an ecumenical group that discusses the lectionary passages and how they relate to our community. This has been a pretty exceptional gift for me. Since the task of preaching is an oral one, this gives me an opportunity to orally articulate what I am thinking before I write the sermon. Sometimes my clergy friends help affirm my path or help me understand what doesn’t resonate. Thursday mornings is when I try to actually write the sermon. Friday is my day off. I review everything Saturday and make some changes. I run through everything again on Sunday morning before worship.
CPL: Any special words of encouragement to those with disabilities or who are single in the ministry? Ways to survive and thrive?
I remember in a Seminary class Dan Boone said it makes a difference how we minister in these bodies that we have been given. At the time, I really didn’t like what he said. I’m pretty small in stature and I have fairly obviously bent and crooked joints, a result of the rheumatoid arthritis I battled as a child. So I wear my weakness on the outside and it really can’t be hidden. At that time the perception seemed to be that pastors were tall and strong and male. All the things I am not, so thinking about my body doing the ministry was to think about my weakness that lies beyond my control. But things are changing in our culture, I believe. These days there seems to be so much more room to have your vulnerabilities visible and known to folks. Brene Brown’s books on vulnerability are helping change things for the better, I think. Vulnerabilities can actually be an asset in many ways for they make us more human. I am more hopeful that people are beginning to see the pastoral role in a broader sense.
In doing ministry in our local park, I have discovered one way my limitations are actually helpful. I pass out popsicles and try to meet all the neighbors I can. Because I am the kind of person nobody is worried about meeting in a dark alley, I can approach anyone and no one is intimidated or suspicious of me. My white, male clergy friends don’t get the same reception. I can do this unique thing in my body that they cannot. So my damaged joints and lack of strength and stature – in some ways – makes me more approachable in a violent, needy neighborhood. We all must figure out how to pastor within the real limitations that we have. The best gifts I have to offer others are all the strange ones I have already received from God. In the midst of my story of pain and suffering there have been plenty of gifts from a God who likes to show up in human weakness.