Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Where do you Go To Church, Ryan?

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I get asked this question a lot as I meet Christians from various groups and programs I interact with. The answer is that I’m a member at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin… But the reality I sometimes leave out is that I haven’t been there for service since Easter last year.

I work Pulpit Supply (which is where I preach those sermons you see on YouTube) and that means that I go to a different church every Sunday to preach a sermon as a sort of “substitute pastor”. I made it to church on Easter because it was a sunrise service at 6am and it gave me time to be at a tiny chapel in Cheapside at 11 to preside over Easter for the ten people there. But there is more to my inattendance than that…

Even when I’m not on pulpit supply, like this summer when I was doing Hospital Chaplaincy, I just don’t make a very good church member. I’m too critical, I don’t follow instructions well, I know too much about what goes on behind the curtain. My girlfriend and I tried to stick to a Church this summer near her place down south (since I was in San Antonio). By the tenth week I was pulling my hair out over how much differently I would have done things.

We actually addressed this in seminary (I’ll paraphrase it as best I can). “There comes a time” said my professor “When you realize that you know too much you have crossed the point of no return, and you can no longer abide to sit quietly in a pew. Every Reference to the Old Testament is now cross referenced in your brain against your education in Biblical Hebrew and the pastors theology includes a telltale sign of that heresy you learned about in Christian History. You can try at this point to not be a pastor, but you can never again be just a congregant” he concluded for the semester with “You might as well face it you are addicted to church”

And it is an addiction. It’s a compulsion. Something I can’t not do even if I want to or bad stuff will happen. It’s often frustrating, and overwhelming, and all-consuming, but I have no choice. I have to preach, I have to write, I have to engage big ideas with little people. It’s who I am, it’s what I’m about. I feel sorry for those of you who just have to sit there and watch me have all the fun.


Written by RyanGaffney

November 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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