"New beginnings". That seems to be the two key words for me tonight. Having this moment of solitude is precious, even though I’m not preparing a sermon like I would used to do. For once I’m not thinking about the grand message I need to preach tomorrow to chart the year ahead.
Today, officially I am no longer the pastor-in-charge for Bangsar Lutheran Church (BLC). While for at least the month of January I’m still assigned to BLC as part of the transition, it will be an interesting change of identity. I must confess it’s good to learn how to step aside and give space to another to take the lead.
By the time I reach February 2011, I will then slip into the role of a "PhD Student" + "Research Fellow" in Norway and my ordination will take a nap 🙂 for 3 years. The first time I heard about the idea of one’s ordination "sleeping" was from my good friend Wolfgang. He talked about how in Germany some pastors especially those who enter politics let their ordination sleep because they no longer function as a pastor in the church. This doesn’t mean they "lose" their ordination, it only means that they step into another role until the time is ripe for them to perhaps return to serve as a pastor of a local congregation again.
I prefer the image of a "nap". Since three years is not that long, even if it’s not that short. I like naps. When it works well, I always feel totally energized.
* * *
I’ve also been thinking about how often the 31st of December of each year becomes a hurried "looking back" or review day. The fact is we need more time. So, as we approach our retreat this coming Friday till Sunday. I’m pondering of slowing down further the push to get ahead too quickly.
Maybe it’s better to use the first week to review the past year, and also imagine the coming year a little. Use the 12 days of Christmas as guide is not a bad idea. As Christians we have the 5 January – "Epiphany" – as a good landmark on the timeline.
What does one do? Some scattered mental tools come to mind. For starters, a simple timeline of the highs and lows can do. Then we can return over the timeline again from January till December and mark down some significant events, or important people that we have encountered. And just when we are in a hurry to move on, we slow down again and ask what are the precious insights, reflections or lessons we have gained in all of these. That’s a pretty good few layered start.
So often, we’re simply too quick to decide on resolutions. How can we make sure the direction we’re heading is right if we haven’t taken stock of where we have come from?
The first week ironically might be the best time to reign in the urge to move on, and pull the brakes a bit, take a pause and look back. Even just for a while.
* * *
Some floating ideas might be around, and I guess that’s only normal. I’d jot them down. And wait for a little while, before giving more attention to another imagined timeline for the coming year. With exactly the same ingredients with the review version, the only difference is that this timeline is more imaginative and about possibilities without being too rigid,
It’s a little late, and I don’t want to cramp this blog post with too much. So, I’ll add more on personal values, and the broader vision for the future perhaps tomorrow. For now, it feels good even though it feels strange to not be the pastor-in-charge of BLC. The fact is I was never FULLY in charge anyway. So much of what BLC is today was contributed directly and indirectly by every person of the congregation knowingly or unknowingly. And in the final analysis, I believe it was and has always been the gentle Spirit nudging us along through the misty paths we’re thread upon.