New Pastoral Call – Days 1 & 2

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Tuesday I began a new call as pastor/teaching elder at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, AZ. In their bulletin they describe themselves as an intentionally “open and affirming community” where “all are welcome.” It is refreshing! But, it is still a congregation in transition, as so many are these days. They have been without an installed minister for three years, having been served admirably and faithfully by two interim ministers. The congregation is ready to “start moving again”, as one person told me.

My family and I attended worship the past two Sundays just to get a taste of things before I officially started on Tuesday. It was a nice way to ease in to the space. The past two days have been a hurried tangle of trying to get my office situated (occupational hazard: lots and lots and lots of books—and, yes, I blame the occupation and I don’t want to hear anything else! Ha ha), meeting with different folks, trying to prepare worship for my first Sunday as pastor, being aware that Ash Wednesday is next week, followed by one of the two most important seasons of the liturgical year (Lent), and a slew of other things that needed to be done, in the words of some teenagers near and dear to me, “like, yesterday.” I wrote in my journal and posted on Twitter and Facebook: “Few things are as invigorating as starting a new position and hitting the ground in a near sprint!”

The past two days have felt like a sprint in many ways. I’m very aware that I can not feel settled until my office doesn’t look like a raucous birthday party exploded in it: yellow “Crime Scene” tape across the door in the shape of an “X”, balloons, a “Welcome Eric” sign draped across the bookshelves, and lovely gold “grass” adorning the front edges of the desk, all thanks to Dianna Phillips, our Administrative Assistant. But there is also packing papers, crushed packing popcorn, empty boxes, books, and miscellaneous papers and things strewn about as I attempt to organize myself in my new surroundings. Several folks have stopped in to say hi, have witnessed my disaster in the making, and have not returned. And who can blame them? :-/

I have met with several committees and groups of people: the music staff to plan worship (I give thanks for not only competent but energized and awesome music professionals!), and with the Clerk of Session to get the agenda for next week’s session meeting planned. Tuesday I arrived at the office around 9:00 a.m., and I got home at 10:30 p.m. Yesterday I started at around 8:30 a.m. and arrived home at around 8:30 p.m. This morning I arrived at 8:00 a.m., it is now 4:00 p.m. and I am planning to leave in the next 30 or so minutes.

It has been a sprint. And, so far, I’m still excited about being here! It is a challenge in a new place and with a new community of faith to listen intently and pay attention to both the formal and, more importantly, the informal structures that cause things to happen. It is difficult to know how to pace myself. I keep telling myself, “Slow down, it’ll happen. Trust God. Trust the process. Trust yourself.” It’ll happen.

Time to go home. I’ll be back again tomorrow to tackle more of those boxes!

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