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Reflections on Leaving Ordained Life – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Jul 082009
 

I recently finished reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. I’m so glad I read it. Although we left ordination for different reasons, our experience of leaving overlaps in a lot of places: The slamming realization that you can’t go on. The shame and guilt of not being able to suck it up and go on. The disorientation of what do I do now? Who am I? All those years for what? What will people think? What do I say?

The painful and brutal wilderness after making the decision. The loss of purpose. To her the loss of the institutional power and her collar and the identity it gave her. For both of us the loss of what to do now that we aren’t “chosen.” Handling being one of the masses instead of The Pastor and The Priest. Both of us have religious educations we can’t do much with outside of the church.

I was so excited when I read this in the wee hours a couple of weeks ago:

There was no sense of seeking another position at another church if my problem was with the institution, and besides, I did not want to move. How and where I lived had become more important to me than what I did for a living (emphasis mine).

Yes! That’s me! I have no desire to leave Chicago. I love the South Loop. I love the people. I love my view of Lake Michigan and watching the sailboats on the lake. I love that Grant Park in one block away. I love our condo and our life. To continue to be a Nazarene pastor, I would have had to move. I have felt guilty for that. But I have found someone else who felt the same way. “How and where I lived had become more important to me than what I did for a living.” Yes. For me too.

I also feel called to minister, right here, in the South Loop. This is where I am called to be. This is where I am called to live, to walk, to shop. This where I am called to pastor, to minister, and to worship. I always said flippantly that if The Church of the Nazarene wouldn’t let me do what God called me to do, I would leave. I just didn’t realize how hard, painful, and disorienting it would be. Like Barbara, I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in being “a pastor.” I didn’t realize how angry and bitter I would be to realize I spent 13 years working my ass of to be ordained, only to be ordained for four years. Were those wasted years? May be not. It’s nice to know I’m not the only who has felt these things and wondered the same thoughts.

It is time to move on. Like her I love the idea of being part of the priesthood of all believers and the freedom that gives me. And I need to stop being scared of that freedom.

Related posts

A Year of Loss and New Beginnings

(There are affliate links in the post.)

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