What a Year! Reflections from an Associate Pastor on a Year of Ministry

Today is May 18th. Last year on May 18th, I preached a sermon in view of a call at Scott Boulevard Baptist Church.

My crazy generous parents insisted on sending me money to buy a nice new preaching dress, and they made me promise to use it in a real department store, not a thrift store.

I chose a royal blue dress with quarter length sleeves and slight pleats in the skirt. It’s one of 2 dry clean only pieces I own. No one said I couldn’t shop the clearance rack though, so I actually got 2 dresses. Ha.

I wore gold studded red flats with it for a nice color pop, and I preached from 1 Peter 2:3-9 (Living Stones, Lasting Legacies).

Every time I pass by Ted’s Montana Grill, I get nostalgic and smiley. Ted’s is where I met with Greg Smith, pastor of Scott Boulevard, his wife and Scott Blvd’s music minister Jan Smith, and Norma Rushing, deacon chair, for my second interview. Thats when they offered me the job.

Ted’s is also where I got to share a meal with Greg, Jan, Norma and Dr. Olu Menjay, and where Norma took Dr. Jimmy Gentry and me to lunch the first Sunday of Greg’s sabbatical. Good things happen at Ted’s and it’s not just the fries.

I worked half time with them from May to September 12, while I finished up my chaplain residency. I doubt I’d have been able to sustain 2 pastoral care jobs much longer than that.

As soon as I came on board full time, we vacated our building and moved our offices. We painted, we arranged and rearranged and then 2 months after that, I moved to a solo apartment. I’m never moving again.

Yes, I know God is laughing because I just vocalized my plans.

But, I can’t stress enough, moving is the worst. I am, however, blessed with the most generous congregation ever, who raised funds and furnished my apartment with a table and chairs, curtains, accent pillows comforterforter set for my bedroom. Also a shower curtain and towels.

I’ve participated in 2 funerals and sort of held down the fort during our pastor’s sabbatical. Around week 3 of 5, things started to unravel. In one day, I found out that 3 of our people were critical-in 3 different hospitals and one was in ICU.

When I did the ICU visit, I discovered another physical manifestation of stress I’ve never experienced before- throbbing and painful neck veins.

Just short of convinced I was about to have a heart attack (which I rationally knew was a panic attack going south very quickly), I excused myself from the ICU family to “go do some more visits” and visited the urgent care near my office.

Tranqs and some good rest got me through the rest of my “solo pastor time” and that’s when I really embraced art as prayer and praying as art. I added pastels and mixed media paper to my art supplies.

Prayer doodling, praying in color, mandalas and drawing scripture are my spiritual disciplines which keep me grounded and standing firm.

I let myself lose my footing for about a week when it all got super overwhelming, but thankfully, these disciplines keep me in trust instead of fear.

Before the sabbatical, I was ordained in a service that rivaled any service I’d ever imagined. I planned it myself but even still, it was more beautiful than anything I could have hoped for.

My second dry clean only piece I own is my robe 🙂 My family was there (baby niece and brother-in-law in spirit) many of my friends and second families, and many of my professors came and made my day ultra special. A true highlight of my year.

After I preached, we sang a hymn and had the offertory followed by announcements and the benediction.

Immediately following the benediction, Jan and I went to Greg’s office while the congregation voted.

He came in and said “well, you’re our new associate pastor! ” and then the three of us went to lunch at Melton’s.

Best fries ever. They come with blue cheese dipping sauce. I cant.

I called my family and best friends on my way home and then proceeded to spend the rest of the day calling and texting everyone I knew.

What a year!

Post Script – Reflections from OliverElizabeth Robb, Associate to the Associate Pastor and Guinea Pig Extraordinaire: Sara is really lucky to have me. I listen to her talk about her day and I pretend to like her “art” and I haven’t really chewed on many of her books lately.

My living quarters are acceptable I guess; it is nice to have 2 hidey houses. I get lots more treats than when she worked at the hospital and she doesn’t have on calls any more.

But know this, if she buys me one more stupid hat or tries to dress me in a clergy robe or succeeds in making a stole for me, it’s not gonna be good you guys. Still, we’ve had a pretty great year. She hasn’t baptized me like all her other pets… Yet.

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The Valley of Dry Bones

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