Early Sunday morning two things happened in two different parts of the metro, in two different communities of faith, with two different leaders at their helm. In one, an apartment fire a block away from the church, gutted the lives of 11 families, killing at least two and leaving these humans changed and charred, forever. In another, a staff position was being eliminated and a congregation was losing a friend, grieving a ministry, and grappling with a different future.
I believe the exact conversation went something like this: “Oh geeze. Of all the times to be forced to attend a clergy event, it has to be when the community is reeling from tragedy and heartbreak and they obviously need me the most?”
Meanwhile, my spouse was having a similar conversation: “Ugh. Of all the times to be forced to attend a clergy event, it has to be when transition and sadness is wrecking the church and they obviously need me the most?”
We were both having our own personal what-about-me, hand-wringing moments, with God.
It was great.
Phone calls were made, emails sent, strutting commenced, and huffing was heard, as we lugged suitcases and sleeping bags into the car…rolling our eyes and just-barely-not-saying, “they surely can’t handle this without me.” (As if we had some magic answer to all the heartbreak in the world?)
The car ride to the conference center was quiet…the silence only interrupted by heavy sighs and the occasional murmuring of “this is so lame.” (Hey…even 40-some-odd year old professionals revert to acting like 12 year olds at times.)
We settled in and gave ourselves over to the 48 hours of discussion, theologizing, and strategizing…stepping away from our phones and our email for several hours…only to find that…
The church was being church. Without us.
The church was planning and organizing, stepping up and stepping out.
The church was communicating and reaching, embracing and equipping.
The church was consoling and cheering, sending casseroles and extending support.
The church was resolving and talking, breathing and praying.
And the church was being church. With God.
There’s an old saying that young ministers learn in seminary (or at least this one did): you ought to always be working yourself out of a job.
I get it now.
If you’re doing your job right (and let’s face it…there are times, when we’re not even doing it that right), the people of God will be church. In the best possible way. You just have to get out of the way.