Posts By : acmead

The Strange Reality of Grief – By Rev. Alan Mead

The Strange Reality of Grief
By Rev. Alan Mead

I was in Williamsburg, Virginia for our annual diocesan council, when, in the middle of a joyous worship service, as we were praying and singing, we came to the place in the prayers where we are asked to name the departed, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief as I quietly, almost silently, named our son. Since his death last July I have grieved, pretty constantly at first and later only for moments, and thought I was doing pretty well. And yet suddenly, here I was in tears and trying hard to cover it up. No matter how much I want to change it, I can’t. I am powerless to change the reality or to make it go away or to make it better.

My grief came as a wave, washed over me, and passed. I tuned my heart again to praise and later reflected that although I can’t change the event of his death, I can remember his life. And remembering is a tremendous power.

Whether as individuals or as congregations we are constantly adapting as things change. Recognizing the power and unexpected nature and timing of grief as a help to healing and wholeness, we need not fear its presence; but rather create opportunities for our feelings to be an invited part of the process of life.

Prayers of Grace and Peace – By Rev. Alan Mead

Prayers of Grace and Peace
By Rev. Alan Mead

As interim professionals we rejoice when a congregation we have been serving issues a call, inviting a minister to become it’s next settled clergy leader. We reflect on the process and remember with satisfaction and joy the journey that we have shared with the congregation. Sometimes an interim will have worked out their own next call to interim ministry, and sometimes it is time to leave and the next interim position is still unknown.

Everyone who depends on interim ministry knows that can happen. I was talking recently with a colleague who is highly successful as an interim professional and yet has just finished a five month gap between one position and the next.

The good news is that this colleague begins with the next congregation soon.

My conversation caused me to reflect on my own anxiety as I neared completion of one interim position and began the process of my own job search for the next. It also caused me to hold in prayer those who are nearing an ending and long to know of the next beginning, and especially those who may find themselves unemployed for some period of time.

I always remind myself that I am called to this ministry and beloved of God. I know it is easier to say than to do; but I then offer my fears to God in prayer and get on with the work of the ministry. I have always found that anxiety takes a back seat when I focus on my present ministry rather than my fears.

Today I pray for all who are nearing the completion of an interim position. Prayers for grace. Prayers for peace. Prayers for hope.

Saturday Prayer for Interims and Their Families – By Rev. Alan Mead

Saturday Prayer for Interims and Their Families

By Rev. Alan Mead

It is Saturday and I have been holding those who do transition ministry, and their families, in my prayers.

It is cold today, and a strong wind, coming in off the sea, has begun to shift to the northwest. The sky is clear blue without a hint of cloud. As the bracing wind numbs my face, I look out across the bay, noticing the whitecaps and a solitary, cargo laden ship heading from the port out to sea. From here it looks unaffected by the wind and waves. It simply plunges along on course to some unknown port, where it will unload it’s cargo and begin again.

It is more difficult to maintain course in high wind and following sea. As with an airplane it is necessary to steer in a direction that looks wrong; but that keeps the vessel moving in the desired direction. Doing so well takes training and practice. It is so also with interim ministry.

O God, be a strengthening presence and source of hope and joy to all who labor in your vineyard, especially this day for those who serve as interims.

Life and Beauty Observed in the Time of Silence – By Rev. Alan Mead

Life and Beauty Observed in the Time of Silence

By Rev. Alan Mead

On our first trip west we passed a sign saying that we were entering the Mohave Desert. I had been looking forward to my first view of a real desert for weeks as we began to plan and prepare for our trip. I had envisioned sand and stone and barren landscape. I was surprised at the colors and the occasional vegetation. My biggest surprise, though, was when I parked, found a place away from the highway to sit, and was quiet. After a minute or two I began to notice signs of life. I observed little things scurrying nearby, intent on moving from one place to another, probably in search of food. I heard sounds of the wind, very small reptiles, birds and insects.

As I sat quietly I realized how inaccurate my preconceptions were. I realized I was for this moment in one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. Had we simply walked around for a minute and returned to the car to continue our journey I would have missed several minutes of solitude where my soul was refreshed, and also importantly, I would have missed seeing and hearing the small, often hidden life in the desert beyond the road.

As I begin each new interim assignment I find it valuable to take time to listen and to observe the authentic and unique beauty and life within this new to me congregation. I have often attended each worship service before being introduced, without any sign or indication that I was to be the interim pastor. I would sit near the back and allow myself to be still so that I could listen for the voice of God as well as the congregation.

Accident and Delay Yield Unexpected Joy – By Rev. Alan Mead

Accident and Delay Yield Unexpected Joy
By Rev. Alan Mead

Some years ago we were traveling on a cross country camping trip. We had a VW Vanagon and a pop up camp trailer. I had four bikes attached to a roof rack on the Vanagon, seats down and wheels up. We had been traveling for several days when we pulled into a beautiful campground on a man made lake about 30 miles northeast of Tucumcari New Mexico. The park was nearly full; but we found a very nice site right on the lake. We set up the trailer, unpacked the Vanagon and our two teens began asking me to drive back to a donut shop they had seen as we drove in. There was a covered entry in the drive up and, as I drove under it I felt a lurch. When I got out to look I saw four narrow black skid marks on the donut shop entry roof above our van and the bicycles leaning off to the side and disconnected from the roof rack, which was hanging precariously in two pieces. I didn’t have any idea what to do, so I jammed the bikes and the broken roof rack into the van, bought the donuts, and headed back to camp. On the way I stopped at a gas station and was told they didn’t weld aluminum and had no idea what I could do.

There we were, in the middle of a very unfamiliar wilderness, on a Saturday night, with no idea how we could correct this unfortunate development. So, not being able to do anything, we went for a swim, ate dinner and enjoyed a lonely fire before bed. Sunday morning we drive into Tucumcari for church and were surprised that a visiting minister from Syracuse, NY, near where we had grown up, was the visiting pastor. It was a small congregation and after worship someone invited us to go with most of them to get lunch at a nearby restaurant. We had a great time. Soon, a woman, learning that we were camping at the lake, said “I haven’t been there in years. Why don’t we come out and have a cookout.” Her husband, in chagrin, said “we can’t just invite ourselves.” Pat and I indicated that it would be fun, and they all agreed to bring the food.

Later in the afternoon about 30 people from the church found our site and set up for an incredible western cookout with steaks, beverages and all the fixings that anyone could possibly ask for. After dinner as we sat around the campfire and talked, someone asked how long we were staying. I mentioned we had intended to leave in the morning, but with the broken bike rack we were stranded until we could either get it fixed or replaced. A couple of the men looked at, remarked that it was aluminum and that it takes special tools to repair. One of them said he knew a business in town that could do it and said he would call them in the morning.

Sure enough, the place could fix it! Not until Wednesday, though, and so we decided that we were in just about the most beautiful campground and ideal site of any place we had visited in years. So we decided to stay for the week. We ended up having more visits with people from the church, met some locals who lived near the campground and who invited us to dinner at their home. (Turns out we were just about the only campers there during the week).

Not only did everything work out OK; but we met many delightful people and enjoyed one of the best weeks camping as a family that we have ever experienced. If I had been observant and stopped before the overhang at the donut shop, we would have been on our way in the morning right after church and we would have totally missed one of the more memorable and enjoyable weeks we have had as a family.

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