Monday, February 20, 2012

The Fast of Freelance

I can honestly say that, nearly two months into my "freelance" season, I am just as busy if not busier than I was before, evidenced in part by the long blog silence. Fortunately, I have continued to be engaged in meaningful and interesting work, a gift for which I am very grateful. Unfortunately, most of it doesn't pay.

My involvement with committees at the Presbytery and General Assembly level has been particularly intensive these past two months, though the GA committee work will taper sharply once we submit our paper next week. It will be interesting to see how it is received, and to be on the receiving end of the feedback that will be sure to follow. When I was at Big Tent in Indianapolis, I was a bit taken aback by the number of folks who simply expressed their gratitude for the time and energy that our committee was putting into this important inquiry. Once our paper is "out there," I anticipate a more...diverse response.

I have continued to work every Sunday, preaching every week except for two, and on those two Sundays I was making visits to churches to which I am a liaison through the Committee on Ministry. I am thankful for an upcoming vacation this week, and upon my return, I am again booked preaching in various places through Easter Sunday. I have really enjoyed the experience of preaching in different churches, and I receive it as a gift during this season. It pays a little bit, which helps, too.

If I were still working in a church full time, much of what I have been doing would be an extension of my service to the church, and through a salary, I would essentially be getting paid to do it. Since I am not currently in an installed position, most of it is volunteer work, and I've got mixed feelings about that. I am thankful to be in a position where I can do it, but it isn't going to be sustainable for long for our family financial situation. Incidentally, I just came across another blog post from a freelance minister speaking to some of the financial and theological implications of freelance ministry.

I am thankful for the insight into what we ask of ruling elders in serving on these kinds of committees, and an appreciation for how difficult it would be to fully participate in some of this work if you had a full-time, non-church job, as well. It's no wonder that most of the ruling elders who are active in presbytery are older - either retired, or at a point professionally where they have more freedom and flexibility in their schedule. How can we expect most young people to be able to take off at least one day a month for committee meetings, much less find or make the time for the other work that is expected, both within the committee and in their local church involvement?

I'm also very grateful to have been given a contract to write 6 Sessions for The Present Word, an adult Sunday school curriculum. I am writing the Student Books, Leader Guides, and Worship Leaflets for one unit of next Spring's study. It was a pinch assignment, and so I've been working nonstop to get it all written in just about a month, and around a busy travel and meeting schedule. Thankfully I really enjoy the work, and thankfully again, it comes with a check.

This is a new season for me, and one of learning and growth. I'm not entirely sure what my next season will be, but this is a critical time for my discernment, too. It can be scary at times, sure, but I'm grateful for it. For someone like me who likes to have a plan (yes, I'm a J), living fully into an intentional, temporal season of unknowns is a major stretch. In a personal season of waiting, this past Saturday I was feeling particularly anxious in the wait, and I read from the morning Psalm, "And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you." (Ps. 39:7)

I am ready for the Lenten journey. I feel like I have already voluntarily traveled to the wilderness, both knowing and not knowing what awaits. In many ways, this season is a fast for me. Landon Whitsitt, current Vice-Moderator of the PC(USA), wrote in a recent blog post that a fast "is not about doing without 'something you LOVE,' but about doing without something you need." I am giving up the kinds of security that I think I need - financial, job, etc... - and prayerfully, hopefully, rediscovering and trusting in the sovereignty and providence of God. May it be so!