A Journey from Church to Neighbourhood

In July of 2010 I resigned from the congregation I was serving. It felt good to be out from under the pressures that characterized my ministry in that place. It was good to breathe again without someone breathing down my neck. But after a few weeks of relaxation the question of “What Now?” popped up.

My wife suggested trying something new and I took here advice like an good husband should. I took a course totally unrelated to being a pastor and discovered another world. I sought out other jobs, but soon discovered that ageism was indeed the number one form of discrimination today. By December I had discerned that my calling to follow Jesus was in and through the church in some form.

So for the last nine months I’ve waited (not always patiently) and prayed (not always fervently) for an invitation to serve somewhere. For nine months the institutional church doors have been shut to me.

I’ve wrestled with the silence and at times been depressed that no one would want me. However, through this time I’ve practiced living missionally where I am.To live missionally is not only about being “Christ-like” where I am, but also listening and watching for God’s presence where I am.

Over these months I’ve visited with my neighbours and gotten involved with my neighbourhood. I’ve brought my neighbours together for fellowship. I even set up my barbecue one evening and offered free hot dogs and hamburgers. I’ve tried to practice a ministry of presence to the people around me. In a way, I’ve tried to live out my calling as a follower of Jesus where I am and with the people around me.

All of this neighbourhood ministry has made me wonder what would happen if upon graduating from seminary new pastors were sent to some neighbourhood and said, “Go therefore and make disciples…Be Christ’s presence and his voice calling people there.” I wonder how well we would do and how many of us would be able to survive.

I’m still looking forward in hope to a “community” call, but I realize now that the most important calling we all have is right where we live and move and have our being. In our neighborhoods and wherever we journey God is there inviting us to participate in the good news God is unfolding.

Perhaps that’s the lesson I needed to learn.

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One Response to A Journey from Church to Neighbourhood

  1. Barry Bence says:

    I went through a similar journey to yours in 2002 in Pennsylvania. For several months disappointment was my daily bread. I knew I had a lot to offer, but my gray hair spoke louder than either my resume or my enthusiasm. In the midst of this down time, my aunt died. I attended her funeral: the pastor who conducted it was definitely a “neighborhood-friendly type,” but he, too, had “had enough” of the negativity in his congregation and had left full-time ministry to become a County Caseworker (a social worker in all but accreditation). I followed his advice, took the Pennsylvania Civil Service Exam, and five months later was offered a job with what we would call child and family services. Here my gray hair was an asset: I came across as friendly, non-threatening, and supportive, and after two years of working this challenging caseload, I followed another Model, namely Fr Henri Nouwen, and spent five years working with children who have disabilities. I retired on my 66th birthday, and hied back to Canada. I tell all this because (a) I care a great deal about what happens to my fellow clergy, and (b) because I care even more that in a world crying out for support and compassion, no person with that talent should not be engaged to the max. Dare much! And God’s blessings go with you, my friend!

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