I remember hearing that Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my preaching and writing heroes wrote a book entitled, “Leaving Church.” It is on my to-be-read list, but that list is always SO much longer than what I’m able to tackle. So I haven’t read it, but the title came into my mind as I thought about writing this post.
My blog has always been an exercise in my own faith – I love that it helps others, but most of the time, I’m writing for myself. I write in order to process experiences, spend time in God’s word, and to keep track of what I was thinking and feeling in a certain season.
Today I want to write about leaving congregational ministry after 15 years. I feel a little like I’m blowing up my life, but the reality is that the last two years have been horrible. Between my own struggles with anxiety and depression (thanks, Covid), the realities of having to pivot several times from in-person worship to online and back again, and the burden of caring for a congregation during these uncertain and painful days, it has all been too much.
I had two choices: keep going until it killed me (it’s already come close a few times), or find a different path. Though I grieved the reality, I knew I couldn’t keep going until it killed me. There are too many people I love in this world, too many experiences I still wish to have, and too much good to be done, for me to be ready to leave at this point in my life.
So the only choice was to find a different path. I admit to you, I toyed with the idea of leaving my faith entirely. Of just giving up faith all together – no more church, no more prayer, no more scripture, no more sacred singing.
But I quickly realized that was my hurt and anger (and, no doubt, the enemy) whispering in my ear. That’s not the Voice I want to listen to. And at the end of the day – I can’t see a sunset without whispering a prayer of thanks; in my darkest nights, I sing the songs of my faith to find my way through the darkness; the scriptures still have the power to reach off the page and wring my heart with their beauty; and though I have been hurt by it, I still wish to serve the church that Jesus died to save.
And the thing is – God isn’t done with me yet. Thank God!
Instead, he quietly laid a path in front of me. For the next couple of years, I will be retraining in order to become a Christian psychotherapist and spiritual director. And it no longer feels like blowing up my life. Instead it feels like hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit – it feels like listening to the voice I WANT to listen to, the voice of the triune God who loves me.
The pastoral tie with my congregation has been dissolved. I’ve been moved to the appendix to the role in my Presbytery. I have applied to Knox College for the MPS (Masters of Pastoral Studies) program.
I’m other words, I’ve begun taking steps forward. There are still many steps ahead.
My hope is to blog through this process – for myself, of course. But I also invite you to join me on the journey. May God use my experiences to bless and encourage others.