[Image Description: A brown rooster stands on a sidewalk in front of a fence and is facing left.]
To borrow some language from the Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana, I’m a Free Range Pastor. I enjoy this role very much.
In this role, though I’m roving, I’m not not detached in some way. I’m connected to communities. Many of them, in fact. That is part of what I enjoy so deeply. As a Free Range Pastor, I have the opportunity to lead worship and build relationships with so many congregations. Over time, these relationships have grown deep.
I’m a member of the Presbytery of Detroit, the collective group of people that also sponsors my ministry work as a chaplain and community organizer in Ann Arbor. And as Presbyterians sometimes do, we have a very jargony term for people like me. I’m a…
Teaching Elder at Large.
See? Isn’t that jargony?
It’s our title for people who are members of the Presbytery, but not serving in long-term, called positions within congregations.
For a long time, I think people viewed this role primarily as a temporary, holding term for ministers who were between positions. But once I entered it, I really began to feel like it was a calling in and of itself.
Most Sundays, I lead worship in various churches throughout our Presbytery. (And occasionally, outside our Presbytery). Often, I fill in when a pastor is away. Sometimes, I spend a month or two with one congregation while they are in transition. I’ve discovered I really love the opportunity to be the shorter term transitional leader before the interim pastor or new pastor arrives. And within all of this, over the last four years, I have built wonderful relationships with all of these congregations. I love that.
Teaching Elder at Large, or Free Range Pastor, or whatever we want to call it, I enjoy being a resource, consultant, worship leader, keynoter, and of course, friend and cheerleader to many congregations. It’s a special role.
And in the midst of this, I’m called primarily to my own ministry in Ann Arbor. The Presbytery supports that as a Validated Ministry. (More official jargon, distinguishing it from parish ministry). All of these congregations feel connected in some way to that vision, so that is lovely.
The community circle is large. And I’m a teaching elder within that large. Or… maybe just a chicken.