This past week I went on an epic road trip, first to New York for a celebration of my niece's high school graduation and a wonderful gathering of extended family and friends. I saw so many loved ones, including the in-laws of my in-laws, second cousins once-removed, my 'uncle' who is not really a blood relative but who cares, he is family, and friends of my brother who I remember playing in the neighborhood when they were in fifth grade. It was the sheer bliss of a connecting web of relationships over generations.
Right after that I went to Richmond, Virginia and spent a couple days with my fellow Free Range Priests, Jay McNeal and Lisa Cressman, as well as Jay's wife, Kelli, a budding FrP who is just stepping into her new, exciting, ministry shoes. It was an intense, joyful, exciting time, and we shared a lot of what each of us is doing.
Jay runs United Faith Leaders, a website that helps people find clergy, and clergy share their ministry. He also has a fabulous podcast, Coffeepot Fellowship, where he talks with all sorts of people in ministry, across denominations, faiths, and experiences.
Lisa is the Founder and Chief Steward of Backstory Preaching, an online preaching mentorship program (where I help out a little), and she is writing a book, hosting several programs, including her current Preaching Summer Camp, producing amazing content online to support effective preaching, and making it all look easy!
We had a lot to talk about, including our hopes and dreams, and fears and setbacks. Being a clergyperson is a challenging vocation. Being a Free Range Priest is extra-challenging, because you are making a lot of it up as you go, following along an unclear path, and it can be lonely and isolating. A lot of our time together was spent just being together - sharing meals and morning runs and stories of our lives. Because so much of what we do is about this connecting web that I felt when I was in NY. We need to know we belong to something larger, a group that has our backs. I know I do.
'Community' is a word that is used so often I wonder if it loses its power sometimes. One reason I love being a Christian is that community is part of the fabric of it - Jesus called people from many different walks of life who came together to be his followers, and to take his word and message into the world. A lot of how they did that - and still do - is by simply gathering, sharing meals, talking and praying and singing together. This is still the way we feel the presence of God.
A lesson I am learning as I go about this Free Range Priest work is that even though I sometimes do feel alone, I never am. I am surrounded by the love of family and friends, and my work is supported by so many others around me. I am learning to rely on others in ways that are sometimes hard for me, but also help me feel connected, and remember that God is in the center of everything we do.