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Ministry is about letting go to be shaped

From about mid-October to mid-April, I end up flying quite a bit.  I learned my lesson the first year I moved here when Snoqualmie Pass was closed for a total of three and a half weeks during the winter.  I had to cancel or miss a few meetings that year.  There were a couple times I had to scramble to find a place in Ellensburg because the pass closed as I was heading home. 


PNW Conference Minister Mike Denton


We need

to be


to the ways

the Spirit

may come.


The last straw was the night the normally four-and-a-half-hour drive from Spokane took nine hours and I got home at 2 a.m. 

Although planes still get delayed or cancelled once in awhile, flying frequently ends up being safer and more dependable than driving during those colder months. 

It also gives me the time to write, respond to emails, study, respond to phone calls and read in ways that driving makes impossible.

That said, I really like driving.  I’ve written about this before.  I like seeing the landscape unroll and the flow of the seasons and small opportunities for creative travel decisions that emerge along the way. 

I’m a member of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane and with that membership comes the ability to visit a lot of other local museums and cultural centers along the way.  I’ve seen amazing displays of Native American Art and learned about the big histories of small towns that were part of so many bigger stories. 

I’ve learned about agriculture and geology.  I visited an exhibit about Bigfoot. 

The more I learn about all this conference is, the better I’m able to be a minister here and the more this place I landed becomes a place I’m rooted.

I also listen to podcasts; lots and lots of podcasts.  One of my favorites is the recordings of the radio show “On Being” with Krista Tippet.  It’s a collection of interviews with religious, political and cultural leaders from all around the world. 

The focus of the interviews seems to be as much about the work people do as the vocations behind them.  I almost always learn something new about someone else—frequently someone who would seem to have a very different vocation than mine—whose story of vocation resonates with my own in some way.

An interview with Rosanne Cash from a year or so ago taught me a lot about preaching.  When asked about performing she said:

“You know when I first became a performer, I was so anxious about it and it took me a long time to grow into it, because I thought that being a performer was about getting a lot of attention and I didn’t want that much attention. I liked the writer’s life. I liked the privacy and the solitude and being inside my own little mind cave.  Over time I realized that it’s not about the attention, it’s about the energy exchange. I’m doing something for them, but they’re doing something for me too, you know? There’s no hierarchy really. It’s—and some nights that exchange is so beautiful, you know, I can feel my own energy stretching out to the far reaches of the room and theirs coming back. There’s something sublime about it, and also the temporal nature of it that at the end of the night it’s over.”

It spoke so clearly to the ways I felt I was growing into preaching.  She named something that I’d never quite had the words for.  It was a gift and a recognition that every attempt at preaching has to include an openness to be shaped and formed by those who are hearing the message.

More and more, I’m learning how much of ministry is the willingness to let go to being shaped: shaped by the people, the stories, the histories, the landscape, the seasons. 

Being open to the Spirit is only part of the reality of being faithful.  The other—sometimes more difficult—part is being open to the way the Spirit may come. 

It’s being open to the possibility that the Spirit comes both through the large and the mundane, the healing and the pain.  It is as much a commitment as an intention.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News © Summer 2014


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