(This post first appeared in my congregation's June 2009 newsletter)
You have probably already noticed it, but you are too kind or polite to mention it. Perhaps that’s because we’re still dancing the get-to-know-you dance, and you may not want to say anything so personal to the new pastor just yet. Well, I’ll say it: I’m growing my hair long. To be honest, I’m not sure if I like this new hairdo or if it suits me well at all. We’ll see.
I have wanted to grow my hair long for years, but I’ve never had the guts to actually go through with it. But not this time. For the first time in my life I’m growing out my hair. Why? Back in January I was asked to participate in the leadership of our synod’s Confirmation Camp (held in late June at Mar-Lu-Ridge Camp near Frederick, MD). My role? To portray Jesus in the week-long teaching and re-enacting of the Holy Week/Passion story. Since we commonly envision Jesus with long hair, and since for years I’ve wanted but been unwilling to grow my hair long, I have allowed my hair to grow for this role. We’ll see if I keep the new ‘do after June.
Growing my hair long is just one of many firsts I’ve had in my first six months of ordained ministry (and not one that I would have anticipated!). It is here with you that I first presided at the Lord’s Table and at the Baptismal Font. It is here with you that I first said, “As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.” It is here with you that I first sat down with lay leaders to dream about education and outreach ministries for the coming year (and also for many years to come). And after years of moving from place to place, it is here with you that I am finally laying down roots for my ministry and for my family. For the first time in my life I am settling into patterns of life and work, and growing into the hopes and dreams that God has given me.
As I look ahead to September and the start of my first program year with you I am simultaneously anxious and excited. For years I sat in classes at seminary, or worked as a youth director, or worked at the edges of parish ministry (as a church publishing sales representative, for example). And in these roles I eagerly learned, hypothesized and developed convictions about ministry. But this time is different. No longer am I a temporary intern or a sales representative peeking into the parish. Now I’m in a new role with new and greater responsibilities … this is where the rubber hits the road. I admit to being a bit anxious.
But let me tell you how excited I am, too. I see here at Resurrection great faith and great hopes, a strong desire to serve others and to be a caring community of love and mutual support. There is already so much that we’re doing well, from our vibrant Sunday School ministry to our Confirmation Class bursting at the seams; from the Clothes Closet to the Christian Service group, both of which serve those in need; from the choir and worship assistants to the dedicated team of leaders on Council and committees, all of whom keep our congregation running; to … well, the list goes on.
And so with ideas and convictions formed after years of church work, and with a faithful and firm foundation of ministry here at Resurrection, I am excited about what will come next year. I’ve been meeting with our Christian Education, Evangelism, and Stewardship leaders, and I am excited about the new and renewed ministries that these committees are envisioning. From new fellowship events to exciting tweaks to Sunday School, from digging deeper into the meaning of Christian stewardship to wrestling what it means to welcome newcomers to the faith and church, the conversations, hopes, and dreams shared by our ministry leaders are exciting and promising.
I’m not sure where all these conversations, hopes, and dreams about ministry will lead us. Perhaps some of our plans for Sunday School or new fellowship events will work out … and perhaps some will not. That’s ok, for just like my hair we can cut and change things afterwards and go in a different direction if we don’t like the look and feel of our new ministry ‘do.
And so as I prepare for my first full program year as a pastor I am anxious and excited, confident in God’s leading and hope-filled for what lies ahead … no matter how long my hair is.