Growing up as a pastor’s kid and as the daughter of a pastor’s kid, I am all too familiar with the role of a pastor. While I realize this role looks differently depending on location, denomination, and the individual an all too common theme I noticed and felt was burnout. I lost my dad to the 24/7 on-call nature of the pastoral role.
And as I watched my dad fight, I too was fighting. I was fighting a calling. At the same church where my dad was pastor, I, the pastor’s kid, received uber amounts affirmation and encouragement. I was asked to be a youth group leader, serve as a youth representative on the worship planning committee, help plan an Advent, preach a few sermons, lead worship, read scripture and sing. My church took seriously the call to invite and encourage young people to use their gifts in the church. Over the course of my time worshiping at Zion, I was asked several times by those who I had come to respect and love if I had ever considered being a pastor. I was told that I was making my dad proud. While these words of calling and affirmation felt good, I was still fighting. What was really so life giving about being a pastor? What about the pressure and time restraining nature of this role was really that appealing? Was I really being called to be a pastor? Or was I just being stubborn and silencing this calling?
These are questions I still wrestle with. I wrestle with them because I am wrestling with the church. I’m wrestling with how it is seen by those on the outside. I’m wrestling with the fact that a large number of my peers are choosing to leave it. I’m wrestling with the structure and the nature of religious institutions. I just don’t see the good in keeping the church as it has always been. I’m a just little tired of the Sunday morning routine, hence the reason why I haven’t been to church since Christmas. I’m tired of how complacent it makes us. I’m angry with how it silences and shames victims of sexual violence, racism and homophobia. The list could go on.
I want the church that Pope Francis explains. He writes, “I prefer a church who is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security…More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, ‘Give them something to eat.’”
I believe my calling is to use my gifts to invite and create inclusive and diverse spaces where vulnerability and authenticity can flourish. Whether that is in the church, or in a bar, a coffee shop, a house, or a park. I am willing to let go of the security, the rules and the habits to live a life following the call to make room for these inclusive and diverse spaces.
My calling is one that involves a willingness to follow risk, risk of failure, risk of disappointment, risk of the unknown. But I think I’m up for the challenge. I’ve had multiple experiences in my life so far that have forced me to get outside of my comfort zone. Experiences such as moving states in the middle of my freshman year of high school and transferring to Goshen College from a place I felt so known at and affirmed by. These transitions have molded me into the individual I am today. They have tested me. They have tested my ability to accept change and grieve healthily what has been lost. The church, and the world frankly, are experiencing a lot of change right now and will continue to. Change is inevitable. Therefore, it is my hope that by sharing my stories and experiences of finding the beauty and hope in the midst of grief and change that I can make room for others to share their own stories.