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Thursday, May 01, 2014
What Am I Doing? - Eleanor Shepherd
At times I wonder if I am crazy, as I rush around trying to fulfill all my professional responsibilities at a time in life when I could be taking lengthy vacations to Florida, spending hours discovering the world with my grandchild, reading the stack of books on my bedside table or knitting for charity.
While I have a certain yearning to do these things, I also feel a greater pull. The pull evoked a “yes” from me a year ago, when I was asked if I was willing to take on the responsibility as the pastor of our congregation. That “yes” was simply an echo of a “yes” that I gave at the age of fourteen, when I sensed a calling from God to show my love for Him by working to build His church.
As a result, today I find myself in the midst of a huge move. No, I am not leaving the retirement condo that we bought in Montreal, but the church that I lead is moving. For six years, since we left the exquisite church building downtown where our congregation was housed for sixty years, we have operated our of a renovated windowless warehouse. Now we have bought a building with windows looking out into our neighbourhood. The contractors will complete the renovations this week and on Friday we move in to our new home. On Sunday, we will worship there for the first time.
That means that during this week we are in the frenzy of packing up everything and getting ready for the movers who arrive early Friday morning. I am trying not to panic, but you can imagine the allure of the more relaxed life that I could be enjoying right now.
It is not like I did not know what I was getting into when I said “yes.” I grew up in the home of parents who spent their whole lives in ministry. While they did not share with me their concerns, I knew they had them. Yet I also saw the joy that was theirs. I knew they found great satisfaction in what they did and I wanted to do something meaningful too. Thus, I felt little hesitation when, as an adolescent I sensed a calling to ministry.
I must admit that at the time, I never envisioned myself as taking on the full responsibility of a pastorate. My idea was that I would do this together with my husband, although at that time, I had no idea who he would be. That was what happened. The path was a circuitous one, but in my mid-thirties, I found myself sharing with my husband, the pastorate of a church in a small city in southern Alberta. I had finally arrived at the destination of my dreams. However, it did not last long.
After two years there, our denomination put the finger on us for more administrative positions and that was how we spent the next twenty-eight years. Then the day came when we felt the urge from God to choose an early retirement, and move into other areas of ministry.
Shortly after our retirement, we again found ourselves together in pastoral ministry in our home congregation, as the denomination needed the pastors leading our church elsewhere. So for one year we shared this responsibility with another couple on a part time basis, since we were all working full time or part time in other areas. After a year, we were replaced by another full time pastoral couple who did a great job in building up our congregation.
Then in June of last year, they moved to other positions and our denominational leaders asked if I would pastor the congregation. This congregation is dear to my heart. It has been the focus of my prayers for many years. It is the family that bore witness to our marriage forty-five years ago. These were the people we thought of through the years whenever we talked of “home.” How could I say anything but “yes” with all of this history?
However, that “yes” has put me in the place where, today. I am stretched to the limit by the challenges and the opportunities that are mine. However, I am finding true what has always been the case. When we say, “yes” to a request prompted by a divine nudge, God provides the resources for us. I have an incredible team of people around me who help make it possible for me to serve our congregation. Above everything else I know I am blessed. So the retirement joys can remain on hold for a while and when the door opens my response to that will also be an unhesitating “yes.”