The pastor life: two and a half weeks

Recently, I attended a social gathering of Lutheran pastors in my area. We went around in a circle and shared where we served and for how long. When it was my turn, I counted on my fingers.

“Hello, my name is Erin, pastor at United Lutheran Church for… (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…) nine days!”

I got a warm welcome, with smiles and some light applause from a room of people who had been ordained (for the most part) decades ago. I expected to feel a little bit like an outsider, but everyone was just too friendly.

I’ve been on the job for a full week since then, so this meeting is ancient history in terms of my career as an ordained minister. I’m learning every day that I’m here. Some days are more administrative, like yesterday when I spent my afternoon getting my benefits finalized. Other days are education-heavy, like the ones when we have a Bible study and two confirmation classes. The variety has always appealed to me.

I arrived during the church season of Epiphany, which is when we learn and read about a lot of Jesus’ ministry. Even though we’re not in one of the busier seasons of the calendar, our committees and I need to make plans for Lent. And we need to do it soon. Right now, that’s the “big” thing coming up.

Unlike a lot of you out there, I don’t fall into the Type A category. I need to sit down and make a document of everything coming up, from immediate worship services to eventual first communion classes. Then, I prioritize and connect with the appropriate parties as best as I’m able. It’s helpful because lists work as an external hard drive for my brain. The down side is that I can only tackle so much of it at once.

I still have a way to go in getting settled. I’d love to talk with more leaders in our community and chat with non-Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastors. (That’s the type of Lutheran I am.) I want to more closely review our congregation’s constitution. I want to set up a pre-baptism class, for either the person being baptized or his/her guardians. These are medium-range goals I want to put into action.

Every time I start to feel disorganized or overwhelmed or guilty that I haven’t started on more “pastor” duties, I remind myself that I’m busy. I’m doing the best I can. And I’ll get there.

I’m finding that it helps to remember how many people are willing to assist if asked, whether that’s members of our community or congregation, family, or friends (especially those who are also pastors). That support means a lot, probably even more than I fully realize.

I feel positive about the future. And when I get discouraged, I think of the sermon my friend delivered at my ordination. She referenced Martin Luther’s sacristy prayer. I’ll share it with you—it goes like this:

Lord God, You have appointed me as a pastor in Your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon Your Word. Use me as Your instrument — but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.