Not far into my newly-minted tenure as an Anglican rector (translate ‘senior pastor’) of a relatively large urban parish, I was confronted with a dilemma. “You are pastoring a lot more people than you’re used to, David. Who’s pastoring you?” As has already been documented in these pages by Doug and Brent, the fabric of our ‘soul group’, which has been woven together by our mutual calling as pastors in the city, has been at least a partial response to that question.
That weaving project began 15 years ago and is still under way. Many of my issues and concerns are different now. I have recently retired from a ‘full time’ senior pastor’s role and find myself formally in transition. I have a new set of joys and challenges, including a beautiful country property to look after in the summer along with some recently diagnosed health issues. But, two related themes keep me more motivated and passionate than ever in pursuing transparency in peer-to-peer community.
First, there’s no such thing as retirement of leaders from the call of active service in God’s kingdom, even though the particulars of that call and vocation change. Second, following from the first, I still have work to do… different but consistent with what God has built into my life this far; challenging sometimes to the point of pain, yet eminently worth doing because the results matter! And that’s where I’ve found the joys, laughter and sometimes tears shared with trusted colleagues who ‘have my back’ are much more than cathartic. It is a great relief and joy to discover that I was never called to this task in isolation. It’s still true what we’ve said to one another on numerous occasions: “You can’t do my job for me and I can’t do your job for you, but I can’t do my job without you.”
Of course, our soul group is no substitute for other necessary connections in ministry. But seldom do I as consistently experience the affirmation of my call, my passion for ministry opportunities now available to me fired and a load shared like I do as we continue to meet…even after all these years! Here I am still being reminded that God delights in calling the likes of me/us to do his work (did I hear someone say God has a sense of humour?). More importantly, I’ve regularly rejoiced in discovery and rediscovery that I’m far from alone in the ongoing struggle to remain faithful to the Lord’s call on my life. Does this all sound a little too convenient?
All I can say is that I believe many of us who have tasted this kind of fellowship as a priority in ministry can happily say, “it is like salt on the egg – required!.”