Church

What Ordinary Time?

Church life is nuts. Like out-of-order, Jane-stop-this-crazy-thing nuts. Church leadership often feels like a merry-go-round that goes progressively faster (there goes Advent! Wait, was that Lent? Here comes Ordinary Ti–fundraiser for the mission trip! Sign up Sunday school teachers!)

Yet the thing that attracted me to pastoral ministry and made me think I might be called to it was the order of congregational life, the patterns, habits, and seasons that shape the life of a Christian community in a particular place. A brief stint in an intentional community after college stoked this fire, and a couple of years of single city living made me yearn to belong to a people and to be shaped by their way of life. “Practices” were a big deal.

Counting my time in seminary, I’m 14 years removed now from that discernment, and I see clearly now that the liturgically patterned life of an ordered church community is a mirage. Pastoral leadership is more about organizing events than it is presiding over a community’s routine of intentional practices.

Tell me if you experience this differently.

Perhaps the reality is better than the illusion, though. Might there be advantages to organizing church life around and orienting leadership toward the episodic as opposed to the “Ordinary?”

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4 thoughts on “What Ordinary Time?

  1. This kind of reminds me of those ladies who decorate for every holiday. They have special banners and dishes and hangings and all the fixings.

    They really like it.

    I would lose my mind to take out and put all that stuff away.

    But I don’t understand what you mean when you say this:
    I see clearly now that the liturgically patterned life of an ordered church community is a mirage. Pastoral leadership is more about organizing events than it is presiding over a community’s routine of intentional practices.

    Isn’t an organized event an intentional practice? What is the difference?

    • I think the difference is in my slooow learning over time that what looks and feels like a “practice” to a participant is actually an “event” to someone(s) who are sweating the details like unlocking the doors and turning on the lights.

  2. Rocky, this has been one of the biggest challenges to my personal expectations of pastoral ministry. We were trained to teach and preach, offer pastoral/spiritual care/guidance, and help infuse theological intentionality into the congregations and communities we might serve. I was not trained on budgets, calendaring, and overall “church administration”–or “administry” as I call it. I try to do the administrative duties with theological- and ministry-mindedness, but it is easy for me to be simply drained (like having to plan Lent when we haven’t even gotten through Advent).

    In many ways so much of what a church does feels more like a rut than an intentional act–our tires are stuck in it and it’s just too much effort to get it out so we just keep moving forward. Even in my progressively-minded congregation, the “we’ve always done this way” mantra rings out loud and clear (even as they make fun of it at the same time).

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