When you sign up for such continuing ed times away from the office, you may think that you're doing a substitution. A week of the usual work of office, writing, sermonizing, pastoral care, organizing and such is exchanged for a week of prayer and study and conversation and writing.
You are getting a week of prayer and study and conversation and writing ON TOP of most of the stuff you usually do, like pastoral care (only it is long distance) and sermonizing (only you don't have time to work on the sermon during the week - you have to do it on Saturday in the midst of catching up on laundry and food-shopping and such) and tending to assorted logistical things that cannot wait. So it becomes a case of trying to fit ten thousand canaries into a trailer that can only fit about six thousand.
This is something of a sneak preview of what it will be like in the fall when I start the DMin. Yoicks!
It's clear I'm going to have to get better at
- managing multiple priorities
- saying no to stuff
- accepting that the perfect is the enemy of the good
- letting go.
To that end, I commend to you for your eschatological reading lists the book "If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Rethinking Priestly Ministry," by Justin Lewis-Anthony. For must of us who come from the Anglican tradition, George Herbert, the 17th Century cleric and poet whose book "The Country Parson" laid out a picture of ministry as saintly, all-consuming, ever-present, has been the model of priesthood that we are compared to, and it is killing us. Ironically, the romantic notion of George Herbert as country parson bears little resemblance to the real man's life and ministry, as Lewis-Anthony details. Herbert was, as all of us in ministry are, sometimes tired, sometimes ineffective, sometimes brilliant, sometimes present, sometimes not. And that's the gift of the book, and the gift of being busy. In the midst of the busy-ness, I usually discover that I have to let some things go (and I pray that I make the right choices in this regard), otherwise I become even less useful and effective in ministry.
I may well take on a new spiritual discipline: letting go of one let-go-able thing a day.
Now I'm going to go sit in the backyard and figure out what it is...