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Defending the writing vocation

Our minister is retiring at the end of September.

This was unexpected.  I thought she would be with us another five years.  She is a tremendous community builder and the thought of facing the future without her has set us all back on our heels.  But already the community is thinking and talking about what comes next.

Last Sunday, during coffee hour, I was approached by a member of session and asked if I “would think about, just think about taking over preaching duties full-time.”  And my heart sank.

I love preaching and I very much enjoy doing “pulpit supply” for four or five weeks in the summer.  And my congregation loves me deeply and would be soooo relieved if I would take over the pulpit in their hour of need.  So it’s hard – very, very hard – to have to say no.  But that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m a writer.  And I know the unasked question on everybody’s mind is, “Can’t you do both?”  To a point, yes I can.  But they don’t realized how much time and effort goes into preparing these few sermons every year, and how much time it takes from my writing.  I can no more prepare a sermon every week than I can whistle with crackers in my mouth.  (Kids, don’t try that at home.)  I’m not good enough at it.  And if I neglect my writing for too long, I get sick.  The poems that are coming to me right now are the most powerful I’ve ever written.  If I shut that off to concentrate on preaching, I’m afraid I’ll lose them, and I cannot bear the thought.

It’ll be hard for them to understand.  Preaching seems to come so easily to me.  And so does writing, but they only ever see the finished product, the sermon, the book.  I’m honoured they would ask.  And I’m not looking forward to turning them down when they need someone so badly right now.

But, I’m a writer.

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