Sunday, June 19, 2011

On the Road Again

Years ago, in seminary, some of our classmates used to talk about their plans for Afterward. These usually struck us as specious, and we suspect that some of them gave God a good chuckle too. But we had a couple of neighbors, guys with whom we didn't see eye to eye and who (to be honest) struck us as sort of shallow. And then one time, at Cheap Beer Night or some other wholesome student activity, one of them said something that struck a note we never expected, but to which we instantly responded. "My plans?" he rolled his head. "Find a church. Preach. Die."

In a few hours, the Family Anonymous climbs into a big silver bird to begin a sure-to-be-gawrshawful flight from Transylvania to Pennsylvania. Via Munich and DC. It wouldn't be that bad, except that we'll be doing it on zero sleep, with a four-year-old in tow. (And of course, the two layovers put our checked baggage in peril.)

Beyond that, though, we are having some strange emotions about the trip. We explored them a little over at the parish soapbox. The bottom line is that when people say, "Oh, you're going home," we don't know how to answer. Home? What does that mean?

Father A. has been a vagrant for most of his adult life. Although he has lived, for the most part, in and around New York City, that sounds more stable than it has really been. We've long since lost count of our various homes -- a dozen, maybe, since 1985. Probably more. Ordination has barely slowed the pace; Fr. A and the Missus have, between them, lived or served parishes in all of our synod's four quadrants, and most of its many conferences. Not to mention Central Europe.

We're not alone in this. Some pastors are called to a church after seminary, and stay there until they retire. Honestly, that was our plan as well. But a lot of us (and the proportion has likely grown over the past half-century) move around like circus people. It can be exciting -- a fresh charge of adrenaline each time -- but it can also get exhausting.

We knew an Episcopal priest who owned a cabin in the Adirondacks. It was a modest little place, five miles in on a dirt road, unreachable in winter without skis and a great deal of stamina. It is not likely that she and her husband ever spent more than a few weeks there at one time. But, as they explained it to us, this cabin was important to them, because -- wherever else they went -- it meant that they had a place they could go home to.

As far as we can tell, they sold it about three years back.

All of which is our way of saying that the adrenaline thing is getting old. In about two years, we'll rotate out of our present unusual post. And after that, we're thinking we'd like to settle down for the duration -- which, given the current state of our pension plan, means until about 75.

It's not too late for us to find a church, preach and die. Ideally, over a longish period of time, with an extended spell as Pastor Emeritus tucked in there. But you get the idea.


stynxno said...

I hope you all have a safe flight! And you're welcome to find a place to settle down in - just make sure both you and Missus have a call before May 2014. I don't need the competition ;)

Pastor Joelle said...

Are you done already? Wow. Seems like you just got there.

At interviews they like to ask where you see yourself in 10 years. I answer that 10 years ago I did not think I would be where I am now so I don't answer those questions. (been answering that way for 25 years) Find a church, preach and die. And save a few cats. Good life. Good luck.

Gillian said...

I can really relate. Am hoping my move to SoVa comes w/ a greater sense of permanence. Have been in San Diego 8 years but every year was provisional in one way or another, so it never felt like I had or could put roots down.

DR Dan said...

My favorite "Home" reply is the song, "Home is wherever I’m with you..."

Father Anonymous said...

No, no -- not done yet. Just taking a vacation to perform a wedding and make some presentastions. We'll be back in Romania soon, for two more years.