Today is April 1st—yeah, I know, “April Fool’s Day”—and I begin my 15th year as the minister at Hallville, Heckston, Inkerman and South Mountain United Churches. I can’t say that I didn't intend to be here for this long (generally, most ministers in the United Church stay in a pastoral charge for three to five years). I know that I feel called by God to be here and “be” is in the present. I know that I wanted my daughters to grow up in one place and get to be a part of a community, church, school, civic, etc. I know that Karen (my wife) is a teacher, and teachers need to stay in their school board in order to retain their seniority.
The countdown is on. I will beginning my second sabbatical in less than 24 hours.
Now I have to expand on this term “sabbatical.” First, United Church ministers who remain in their pastoral charges more than five years are entitled to a three-month sabbatical (i.e., time away from normal ministry) for every five years they serve in a charge. So, I’ve been in the South Mountain-Hallville Pastoral Charge (SMHPC) for 14 years and about to take my second sabbatical.
On Thanksgiving Monday, a relative emailed a photograph of a postcard my great-grandfather Robert (“Bobby”) Fyfe Easton Paterson received from the young woman Catherine (“Kit”) Hill Cobb who would eventually become his wife. Seeing it confirmed my sense of Scottish heritage. Later in the day, my eldest daughter, Emma, told me she was impressed by the statement in the worship bulletin from Church on Sunday that showed appreciation to the Indigenous People who walked this land before us. I, half-jokingly, reminded her that maybe the Indigenous People who walked this particular land might not be very happy that we, as unofficial members of the Nulhegan band of the Cosook Abenaki were living on their land.
“I don’t choose to identify myself as Indigenous … I’m only an ally,” she said. I was taken aback.
"So Rev, you only work one day a week, eh?”
And that was my father-in-law. It’s a funny calling, being a minister. The majority of those who “see” me during the week end up seeing me on Sunday mornings—at worship. But just as only 10% of an iceberg is visible, and the remaining 90% is hidden beneath the waves – the same generally applies to being a minister.
I don’t know about you, but I have certain “traditions” that I keep every year when Christmas comes round.
The first thing is putting up the Christmas lights. Or rather, untangling the myriad strings of broken lights, frayed wires and other flotsam and jetsam.