Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hospice Chaplain?

I keep saying that I am not called to be a hospice chaplain. Not that there is anything bad with chaplaincy; I just feel no passion there. So, here I am pastoring a dying church. I was called to help them grow, or at least thrive. But, they don't want to change. After 18 months here and a successful visioning process, it is clear to me that they are happy the way they are. There are a handful of folks who are interested in listening to God's call and follow, but most see God's call as taking care of themselves (in the collective sense). There is nothing wrong with wanting to take care of our older members, but there is more to following Christ than that, IMHO. Folks are not even interested in any sort of small group. Well, they are interested in concept, but not in showing up.

I have 18 months more on my contract as a designated. The easy path for me would be to finish the contract, assume they will call me and then do what they want until I retire (3.5 years hence). But, that feels uncomfortable for me. I feel fairly sure that if I leave, the Presbytery will push to close them. They have a disasterous record in hiring. (Part of the reason is that they say they want to grow, but they don't and so they call folks who come with ideas about growth and then the church doesn't embrace the changes needed and the pastors grow frustrated. They really want someone who will preach on Sunday, use traditional music (think classical with a paid choir), and most important visit all the elderly and go to all the PW events. But, that's not who they call. Had a long conversation with my predecessor who was there for seven years and this is the conclusion we reached. She did all sorts of wonderful things: all the right things and when I bring these up, people get really angry.) There is no endowment, so there is a finite limit on the life of this congregation.

Some organizations must die. I think this is one. I could be wrong.

I'm having trouble sorting out what I need to do. I'm trying to listen, but my own self interest gets in the way. What would I do for two years until I can retire? I need health insurance. I am much too liberal to be called to 90 percent of the churches in this presbytery. I bought a house last year and will lose $$$ if I have to sell in the next 18 months.

I am also battling what seems to be an autoimmune disease and am tired all the time. Sort of like the congregation. They are tired, they say. They have done it all. God has a sense of humor.

Thanks for listening.

4 comments:

Alex said...

How have I not seen your blog before? Thanks for these thoughts. My husband recently used the hospice chaplain image with a church he is serving as session moderator.

As a small aside, I have been a hospice chaplain and it is nothing like pastoring a dying church!

Joan Calvin said...

Thanks for your comment. And you are right; there is much wonderful about hospice and death with dignity.

Rev SS said...

I used the expression "I'm not called to be a chaplain" too in my previous designated position that was so similar to what you describe, it could be me writing about it. We parted after 2 years, and fortunately I was able to retire and now serve half-time in an associate position in a large, living church.

Praying for you as you discern your next steps.

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