Living in the Season
Our Lenten disciplines and programs are in full swing, and our sermons and Bible studies are keeping our congregations in the wilderness on the slow approach to Holy Week.
But for pastors, Holy Week is not slowly approaching – it is right around the corner! Many already have Holy Week fully planned out. The congregation may be in wilderness, but the pastor is already looking past Easter! Lent? Lent was being laid out before the Chrismons were packed away in their boxes.
This disconnect between pastors and congregations in how they engage the liturgical year is one of the necessary parts of pastoral work – shepherding the people through the seasons often means leaders planning far ahead.
So can pastors be fed through the liturgical calendar at all? Just because the congregation needs you to live in advance of the season doesn’t mean that you need to locate yourself in the season any less. How can you keep the seasons of the church year while planning, reading, studying, sermon-writing, buying supplies, and more ahead of the seasons?
Here are some possible strategies to stay rooted in the Lent (or any season!), even as you necessarily anticipate the season(s) ahead:
1) Establish a daily prayer routine rooted in the lectionary or the liturgical year.
Some of us accomplish this with prayer books, such as Reuben Job’s Book of Prayer series or Phyllis Tickle’s Daily Hours series. This Lent, some others are finding visual ways to pray through Rethink Church’s photo a day challenge. Still others read devotional booklets or blogs produced by a local congregation. For those who live within a larger family, you may find family prayer time (or hymn singing or scripture reading) to be the time when you can find rest in the season. However you do it, find a way to receive daily sustenance in a practice that follows the seasons.
2) Worship with another congregation.
In the most rural areas, this might not be so easily accomplished, but in many areas, it is possible to find worship at a time that does not conflict with your own congregation’s schedule. Whether at a church of another denomination or at a local seminary, avail yourself as often as possible of the opportunity to participate in a worship service that you did not have any responsibility for planning! To a limited extent, pastors of congregations with a large staff can similarly benefit by attending worship services that you are not leading within your own congregation.
3) Form a covenant group.
Join with other pastors to meet with one another in person, or to touch base over the phone or via text messaging to check in with another. Reflect together on the current season of the church year, and how your life is or is not conforming to the contours of that season. In the most rural settings, it may be hard to find kindred spirits close at hand. Fortunately, with text messaging, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, it is possible to maintain meaningful relationships with a handful of far away friends. Pray for one another, that you will stay connected with the rhythms of church life, even as you are called to choreograph the congregational experience weeks and months in advance.
With a little intentionality (and a little bit of compartmentalizing) it is possible for your soul to reside in the present of the church year, even as your brain and calendar are weeks or months down the road.