Another Top 10: At the 4-Month Mark

It’s that time again… a time for a funny/embarrassing/surprisingly touching (maybe?) list of things that have happened to me in the first FOUR months of ministry! (Can you believe it’s been that long? Me either.)

10. I don’t know if you know this, but (surprise!) there was a presidential election that happened yesterday.  In conjunction with this historic event, I got to plan and help lead an election night communion service! Three observations: It was the bomb, I got to write a Great Thanksgiving, and I didn’t accidentally confess my political leanings!

9. After the election night communion, I went to dinner with a friend, went home, put on my PJ’s, and finally settled in to watch the results roll in… and then I realized that I forgot the leftover bread from communion.  I tweeted this:

And then this:

(follow me on twitter! @erinjbeall)

8. Our worship minister showed me all the secrets of worship planning this week: where the skeleton key to the altar cloth closet lives, the secret kitchen filled with secret frozen Hawaiian bread and secret grape juice, and how to turn on/navigate the sound system.  She said gravely, “So if I die, all this belongs to you.” I felt a little like Simba from The Lion King.

7. I was the liturgist at our All Hallow’s Eve service, one of the most meaningful services I’ve ever been to, despite the fact that our incense-smoker-thing (that’s the official term) didn’t make much smoke.  The smell was still pretty solid!

6. I finally got my heat turned on at my little house– which by the way my friend Lindsey says look like Miss Honey’s house from Matilda (**This post is brought to you by nostalgic movies from your childhood**)–  But not before I woke up one morning to the kitty delicately placing her very cold paw-pads on my neck, presumably to warm them up.  Also possibly to threaten death if I didn’t get the house warmed up.

5. I’m speaking at an event in Florida this weekend and I’m using my comedy background to relate improv to ministry.  I’m SO excited! Want to help me out with this? Comment and let me know one (or more!) of the following things:
a. A time when you’ve tried to get the congregation/staff to do something they really didn’t want to do.
b. A time when your congregation/staff tried to get you to do something you really didn’t want to do.
c. The funniest moment you’ve had in ministry.

4. I had to use some bleach cleaner in my house the other day, and all day afterward I kept catching whiffs of the bleach smell on my skin, and I actually got emotional because it smelled just like my old days at Duke when I’d go swimming in the morning and then smell the chlorine on my skin all day.  As a result of this teary, ridiculous nostalgia, I’ve decided to join the YMCA or YWCA regardless of money, ASAP.  I just want chemically-smelling skin, you guys.  Isn’t that worth like $40/mo?

3. I think I’ve been successful at weaning myself to a lower level of caffeine intake. I’m down from 4-7 cups per day to 1-3.  Go me!  Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be so impressed. I assume.

2. I’m still happily wearing my collar to work every day.  It is legitimately one of the great joys of this job for me!  I don’t often feel like a pastor, but when I put the shirt and collar on every day, I really do.  Also, it makes me feel freer to be myself, because I don’t always have to be asserting my authority or trying to make sure that people know I’m not just an intern, but a pastor.  The collar does all that (prideful, unnecessary) work for me.  It leaves me free to be whatever God is calling me to be at that moment, but I’ve always still got this little sign on saying, “Hey, if you need Jesus right now, I know the way.”

1. That being said, one of the other great joys of this job is taking the collar off at night.  And I’m still not sure how to navigate the line between the job and the down-time, the ministry and my faith (is there even a line there? I’m open to suggestions).  But I’ll tell ya… taking that collar off and putting on a nice, free-necked t-shirt or sweater is pretty swell.

Top 10 Moments from My First 3 Months in Ministry

10. The first time a parishioner requested me by name to come visit them in the hospital.

9. The first time I couldn’t get through the church lobby on Sunday morning when I was in a hurry because so many parishioners knew my name and wanted to talk to me.

8. Getting together with other clergy friends and saying over and over again, “OH THANK GOD I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO HAD MADE THAT MISTAKE.”

7. Figuring out how to use the phone to make inter-office calls. (I accomplished that this week. After three months. I’m clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer.)

6. The first time I got to help carry baptized babies down the aisle.  She was squirmy and only calmed down when she got some fabric from my robe in her mouth to suck on.

5. Here’s an embarrassing one: I bought some new clerical shirts and wore them for a week before realizing I was putting them on backwards.

4. Preaching for the first time and never once being told I was good “for my age” or “for a woman,” but rather being told that Christ had been proclaimed.

3. Quoting Julian of Norwich to a parishioner who was crying in my office. “All shall be well…”

2. The first time I celebrated communion.  Doing the invocation gave me chills.

1. The moment in the bathtub yesterday when I realized, with a jolt, that I’m doing this, I’m really doing this.  I’m a pastor.  I’m a pastor.  It ran up my spine like fever and settled hot in my ears.  My head got fuzzy and my heart was very still for a moment.  And in the stillness, I could all but hear God looking upon God’s creation– meager little broken old me, a pastor– and saying that it was good.

Of course, in the next moment I remembered some silly error I’d made the day before and promptly declared myself an absolutely inept pastor who will be defrocked any day now.

But that moment was real.  And it was true.  And it was good.

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in Month Two of Ministry

10. If you wear a clerical collar to McDonald’s, your service will suddenly get much better.

9. If you wear a clerical collar while driving a touch too fast by a police officer, he will likely not pull you over.

8. If you wear a clerical collar to Chick-Fil-A, it becomes a huge statement, and you must run away as soon as you remember that whole thing that’s going on with Chick-Fil-A. Go quickly, before a news story gets written about you!  (Exaggerated, but you get the point.)

7. Going to a RIOM (first year ministry) retreat will make you miss seminary so bad it gives you indigestion for days.

6. If your supervisor offers to help you practice before you celebrate communion for the first time, take him/her up on the offer, even though it will be awkward and embarrassing. It is invaluable to be able to ask all your stupid questions before you get up in front of the congregation and REALLY look stupid.

5. Anne Lamott was put on this earth by Jesus to be a balm to soothe pastors’ souls.  Go on Amazon now and buy every single one of her books and actually read them when you’re tired, or glad, or stressed, or bummed, or anything at all.  I am not joking.  This is potentially the very best thing you can ever do for yourself.

4. Answer your damn emails. Even if they’re scary. Like the ones about health insurance and Board of Ordained Ministry requirements. Just drink a Red Bull, put on some pump-it-up music, and do it.

3. No matter how poor you are, buy new music every week.  Count it in your mind as a Sanity Expense.  New music creates new people.

2. Your first experience celebrating the Eucharist will be the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to you.  It is likely that, like me, you will black out for most of it and panic that you skipped the entire middle of the Great Thanksgiving.  
You may also, like me, have such bad dry mouth by the end that, when you eat your little hunk of bread, it will get caught in your throat and you will hack “The–sdxckjvv– body of Ch–riasjfdojsgf–rist, brok–coughcough–en for you” to the first three people in line.  
And you may also, like me, feel for the first time like a Real Pastor as you carefully clean up the altar and tenderly care for the remaining elements.  It is AMAZING.

1. Complain not lest ye be complained about.  Seriously.  Get off your bitter horse.  This is the most amazing job in the world.  Maybe you don’t have the biggest church, or the nicest office, or the most gracious parishioners, or the most beautiful choir, or the most together altar guild, or the friendliest secretary, but you are a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is the coolest thing in the world.  Smile all day long.  I’m serious, smile all day long.  You can do it, I believe in you; if anxious old me can do it then so can you.  Praise God for this odd and wondrous calling.  And if/when you can’t praise God for it, your little smile will praise God for you.