Hurry up and slow down

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Seeing all the school supplies at Target Saturday led me to taking a hard look at the calendar. Though I still feel like I just returned from General Assembly in Detroit, turns out the end of July is almost here. I am failing spectacularly at my goal of weekly posts. Sometimes I’m too close to the things I want to write about in a public way. That necessary vulnerability is scary and necessary if writing is to be authentic.

I miss regular seminary classes. I miss my classmates. I miss the confines of a class schedule and syllabus requirements. when I took all the personality and psych inventories before coming to seminary, I scored 100 on abstract and 0 on details. I also was 100 on independence and 0 on dependence. The fact that I’m longing for more structure right now and missing feedback from friends and faculty shows that the snapshot of who I was entering school last fall has certainly changed.

I feel myself growing this summer, too. First Pres has been a great, safe learning church for me. I feel the care that members have for each other and for me. The life and love in the place inspires me. Ministering in a church setting suits me. I miss parts of youth ministry, but am thankful to be able to participate more fully in the life of the entire church. One Sunday, the nursery was short on volunteers and I felt complete relief, knowing that my responsibility was to serve as liturgist in worship instead of having to answer the unspoken expectation that I would fill a spot in the nursery.

worship planning

Picking out liturgy, working on sermons, and applying the seminary education to church life energizes me. I know that some of what we’re learning in class is ivory tower stuff, boring to many in the pews on a Sunday. The more I see in this congregation convinces me that there are lay people in every congregation who are capable of understanding Reformed worship particulars. Before seminary I’d planned worship services– mostly youth led, or summer camp– and nobody had ever sat down with me and showed me the Directory for Worship. As a lay person, as a camp staffer, and especially as a youth worker, I know I could have learned so much more about why we do things in certain ways.

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Watching and working with Vacation Bible School a couple weeks ago was also eye-opening. I’ve helped with many as director, as story teller, as recreation leader and so on. This summer, I was the leader for Bible Discovery. (Above, you’ll see the tasting time activity we did, talking about the passover meal.) I found it refreshing to not have to worry about all the details for all of the programming. I learned so much from watching how Linda and Kat led different parts of the week. I finally had time to think about VBS more philosophically– you know, from the ivory tower instead of from the trenches. The budget my last two churches had for decorations was bigger than the budget for the entire week here. There was no purchased curriculum… all was homegrown. Wonderful stuff.

vbs program

I preached yesterday in church. It was my second time as part of Sunday worship. I’m fascinated by the mystery of how a sermon comes together. I read and reread the scriptures. Then I dig into reading and commentary– I suppose the study part of it. Just when I think I’ll never figure out where to go or what to say, the Holy Spirit intervenes and I start typing. I’m still self conscious from the pulpit. I was braver a few years ago. Now I want to make sure I say the right thing and I’m too paranoid about making mistakes. When I learn to relax and when I get a little more comfortable in the role of pastor, I think I’ll be able to sleep better on Saturday nights. And maybe not. Maybe my process just includes a freak out. Yesterday a professor described my sermon as “sophisticated.” I promise you that’s a word I’ve never heard in regards to anything I’ve done in youth ministry or in the life of the church. Maybe that’s okay? Though “sophisticated” still makes me think of Haiku in a bow tie.

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Overall, things are going well. I’m glad to be where I am.

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

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