It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when you become a parish pastor, you will often hear this sentence: “We’ve never done it that way before.” The implication, among seminary students, is that you are going to shake things up with your bold, exciting new ideas about worship, teaching, social justice, and how to be God’s people in the world. The reality, in the two country churches to which I’ve been called, is that these folks have been being God’s people together for longer than I’ve been a pastor–in some cases, for longer than I’ve been alive–and so they know a lot about worshiping, learning, serving, and being church together.
In the two years that I have been a pastor–which is about two months less than the amount of time I’ve been a parent–I have found that I am often the one saying, “Oh! I’ve never done it that way before.” Being a pastor and being a parent are amazing adventures. Both can be exciting, inspiring, frustrating, heartbreaking, and hilarious. And both lead me to do and say and experience things I have never done or said or experienced before.
So to get this blog rolling, I’ll begin with what I imagine will be a regular feature: Never Had I Ever . . .
If you remember playing a game called “Never Have I Ever” in college, this will be a lot like that, except without the fingers, the drinking, and . . . okay, the main similarity might be in the name.
Okay. Before I moved to Litchfield, Minnesota, never had I ever hitched a ride with the gas man. In July, we moved from the south side of town to the north, a grand distance of about one mile. My father-in-law gave me a ride from the old house to the new so that I could wait for the gas man to come hook up the gas. I was surprised when my father-in-law drove away, leaving me without a way back to the old house. But the gas man seemed nice, so when he was done doing whatever gas men do, I asked him for a ride.
“Oh, sure,” he grinned. “let me just clean out the front seat.”
“Great! Thanks!” I said, pleased with my clever plan. It was only as I stood on the curb, watching a strange man move about seventy-five empty water bottles from the front of his truck to the back, that I realized I had just asked a gas company employee, and a complete stranger, to drive me home. I also realized that this was a totally normal and safe thing to do. We had a nice chat on the two minute ride. His name was Gary. He knew the couple who owned our house before our landlord did. It was fine.
It was fine. If I were still living in Chicago, or Milwaukee, or even the Very Safe Suburb where I grew up, I would not have asked the gas man for a ride home. It might not have been safe, and it probably would have been against the rules, and the man would have looked at me like I was nuts. But in Litchfield, it was fine. He just had to move the water bottles out of the front seat.
Side note: if anyone would like to suggest a replacement for the phrase “gas man”, feel free.