I've decided that my vocational mission this year is to get myself ready to return to full-time ministry by July 2012 (the United Methodist appointment year goes from July 1 to June 30). I want to be in the best shape possible in terms of spiritual health, emotional stability, and my confidence in my ability to effectively lead a congregation.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have reflected a lot on what I could have done differently in the Saint John's situation and what I will do differently when I return to being a pastor (note the use of the word "when". I'm now certain that it is a "when" and not an "if"). However, I've never actually put those thoughts and ideas in writing; they've just remained in my head. I think it's time to express them "out loud", so to speak.
Even if I were to begin a new appointment today, I know that things would be different. I am not the same naive 29-year-old who walked through the doors of Saint John's in 2006. Obviously, I'm not 29 any more. (: I also weigh about 20 lbs more than that woman and have some unsightly stretch marks. But there are deeper changes that aren't noticeable to the naked eye. I am far, far more realistic and pragmatic now than I was back then. I have an additional four units of Clinical Pastoral Education, and a pretty good handle on basic Family Systems theory. I am a stronger person, and am less "rocked" by the petty things in life. I have increased empathy for people and situations that are different from myself.
But, I'm still growing in my confidence and ability to lead/order the ministry of the church. I think my self-confidence was damaged enough that I need to spend some time developing relationships within the church, to regain my equilibrium in that area. I've still never done a traditional church funeral (remember, no one died while I was at Saint John's). I've also just begun to really re-involve myself in the local church. And then there's the matter of my relationship with God, which is being renewed after two years of negligence.
At the end of my CPE residency, I did a creative verbatim using scenes from "The Lion King" to illustrate my experience in the local church and healing afterward. This scene (click on the link to view it on YouTube) pretty much sums up my attitude in 2006; excited, but not having a clue about what I was walking into:
When I do take another appointment, my attitude will be much more like Simba in this clip:
Informed by the past, confident in who I am, but most importantly, confident in the One who called me and who is saying, "Remember who you are."