Author & Exorcist

So, a funny thing about being a priest. It’s a vocation, not a career. Like some other professions, priests and other ministers experience a sense of being called to it, and sometimes that is just a rhetorical saying to describe a lot of things that are unexamined and under the surface, and other times it’s blithely glossing over an actual honest-to-God mystical experience. But like with, say, a doctor, just being a priest doesn’t necessarily mean being a certain kind of priest. That would be like assuming that all doctors were neurologists. And yet, at least in my experience there is a sense that most priests (read: normal priests) are parish priests. This means they are the CEOs of small (or occasionally large) non-profit organizations and do other things as necessary. But there are other ways to be a priest than to be a parish priest, as there are other ways to be a doctor than to be a neurologist.

There are chaplains – hospital, hospice, military, and school. There are missionaries. There are professors. There are specialists in transition. There are community organizers. There are pure administrators. There are theologians. There are exorcists. And there’s the miscellaneous category that contain people like Mr. Rogers; people who are very obviously exercising their ministry but in such a creative way it’s hard to explain it to others who haven’t experienced it.

I fall into the last two categories. These are not popular categories, in case you were curious, and it’s not quite as easy to find a job in them. But putting that to one side, I knew half-way through my first position as a priest (as a curate, a newbie assistant to an experienced parish priest) that I wasn’t called to parish ministry, but it would take another fifteen years for me to sort out the details of being able to earn enough and retire from parish ministry.

Which I’m doing at the end of the year.

And even though I’m really (really) looking forward to that, as it will allow me more time to do what I am called to do – writing and exorcism – it’s also deeply bittersweet. I’ve served the same parish for more than ten years, which means I’m deeply inside their lives and I love them. I’ve celebrated with them. I’ve grieved with them. I’ve led them in hard decisions. I’ve buried some of them, and baptized some of them, and helped them to understand a little better God’s deep love for them. That is no small thing, and I’m honored to have held that trust.

To know that I’m not called to the ministry and to celebrate not having to do something I’m not called to do anymore also means leaving behind the beautiful people I served. And it truly is leaving behind – our flavor of Christianity has a no-contact rule for a year following my departure. In this era of connectivity, that may seem harsh, and it’s not like I can keep people from reading my blog, and if people sign up for my newsletter I’m not going to boot them just because they are a former parishioner, but the whole point is to allow the parish to successfully let me go and embrace their next priest without constantly comparing us and finding the new one wanting. (It’s a thing.)

I won’t miss the administration, or worrying about the 170 year old building, or the state of _____, but I can’t not miss the people, and I haven’t even left yet.

More about exorcisms next time.

One comment

  1. I like that you brought up Mr Rodgers. I always forget he was a priest (or was he a minister?)

    Anyway, yes, his ministry was incredibly creative.

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