It’s a little unnerving, these days. I am 2 weeks away from wrapping up my work with ECF, working at Church of the Ascension 30-36 hours a month, about half that much at St. Paul’s. Except for two afternoons, one week-day evening a month, and Sunday mornings, I am pretty much responsible for sketching out the contours of each day for myself. Sometimes, that feels like oppressive freedom. There was a certain comfort when I was carried along from day to day by a schedule and obligations that came with a single commitment, in a well-defined role as priest missioner. This alternative means daily decisions, daily temptations to put off this bit or jump into that other without following all the way through on something I had already started. There are times when having sole responsibility for filling out the blank page of the day gets to me.
That said, having those daily decisions, while harder in some ways, is also quite marvelous. On Saturday, I got up early and went to the farmer’s market to buy a few things we aren’t growing ourselves: peaches, garlic, onions, lettuce. I had another quick errand then came home and over the course of the rest of the day, I made zucchini bread, gazpacho, ratatouille and crab-stuffed flounder for dinner. Several times during my cooking marathon, I stopped to go out to my little herb patch to bring in sprigs of lemon thyme, of oregano, of mint. The smell of the herbs was delicious, the heft and weight of an old pair of garden scissors from Sweden in my hand strangely comforting. While some of the food was cooking or baking, I worked on my sermon for yesterday. And at day’s end, the spouseman and I had a nice swim in the pool.
Yesterday was equally busy but with very different tasks. Church of the Ascension is a big church with big, beautiful music, lots of people, even in the summer. The rector and I had gone into the morning with some trepidation—word had it that one of those fringe, militant groups that pickets churches was in town and might try to disrupt our services. But that didn’t happen. When church was over, I took communion and visited a family with enormous challenges related to illness. It was one of several pastoral visits I had on my schedule for the week.
I find that time goes still during those visits. I am not checking off another item on a to-do list, I am not putting out fires. Mainly, I am blessed to spend time with people who have hard lives and still find the ways to be gracious, generous and brave. There’s a lot of laughter. Last year, as we began the move to Alabama, as I let go of a more traditional parish ministry position, I talked about my growing sense that as much as anything, I wanted to practice kindness in whatever small ways possible in our new home and life. I get to do that. I also get to notice the many small details about life that always passed me by before.
Today, I will do some administrative work related to winding up with ECF. I have carefully cut over 100 7.5×7.5 inch squares of contrasting fabric and I hope to have some time to start sewing a of quilt I’m making for Maria. I have to write about 25-30 invitation notes and put them in the mail for a morning retreat I will lead at the end of August and tend to the final details related to the confirmation service we’re having with the Bishop of Alabama at St. Paul’s this Wednesday evening. I will stop often to check on my chicken littles and have lunch with Sherod. No drama. Just a life.
I like the phrase you use “oppressive freedom” – I think that is the way I feel in the summers as a teacher. I need to think of ways to free myself from the oppressive part and own a “glorious freedom” especially as I am considering retirement for next year.