What is it like to be ordained, a leader in the church, and then become a layperson?
A person might think after what I had been through in my “downgrade”, that a person would only feel shame or remorse in “losing the stole.” But, no, quite the opposite has been the case.
No joke, I find the novelty in participating in a church as a layperson after having been a pastor is pretty fun. I’m even the chair of our Stewardship committee and I look forward to going to meetings! I don’t think the sole reason for this joy is its newness; I believe the source of the joy has to do with two things: 1) the church we attend, St. Paul Reformation, is an extraordinary, very intentional faith community that has me really excited about claiming my baptism; 2) when I was a pastor, my faith was assumed to be a “given”, and I, by extension, believed that somehow I had “earned” it and I was “done." God has transmogrified this assumption. Like a sweet chunk of salt-water taffy, my former assumptions about identity and faith have been twisted into something new and wonderful.
I’ve gone through a radical transformation in the past year. I’ve come to a new realization: it seems that faith is not some-thing at all. What I mean is that faith is not a noun, but a continual verb. The growth is ongoing. It is never an achievement or something to be attained—hanging that certificate or diploma or confirmation of ordination doesn’t make faith “done.” Spirituality doesn’t work that way. How does it work? The spiritual life (faith) is a cyclic, daily reincarnation of trust.
What has surprised me about my journey is that I assumed that going to seminary, getting a degree, being ordained, serving a church, and being a pastor would give me spirituality. Far from it. What gave me the gift of seeing was falling down hard and rising to new life as one who “is less” to become more. Every day is a gift and spiritual growth is eternal. Those who seek to gain life will lose it. Those who lose life will gain it. It is the Infinite One's way of twisting things around. Transmogrification.
What does my experience mean for those who continue to be ordained leaders and who have always been lay people? I guess it means that the human constructs which we build up--like castles in the sand--are weak, temporary classifications. In the whole scheme of things (and that’s all there is, folks, the-whole-scheme-of-things) it doesn’t amount to anything.
Some might see my transformation as a loss. I prefer to see it as gaining something that really matters—eternal trust in a power greater than myself. It's the gift we all have in front of our noses. All it takes is a new impulse, a change in the way we see things. Who knows, maybe this column will stimulate your own transmogrification of faith.