“You have to be open to the call of the whole church.”
That’s a thing they tell you before you start seminary. It means, “You have to be willing to go where the Spirit sends you, even if the Spirit sends you somewhere really tiny or really far away.” Also, the Spirit works through people–candidacy committees, call committees, synod staff members. These people do not and cannot always get it right.
When I started seminary, I was sure I knew where the church would call me: right back to urban ministry, maybe even right back to my beloved Milwaukee. When I finished seminary, I knew that I just wanted to be a pastor. The where was not as important as the what.
Even so, I was a little stunned to end up in Litchfield, MN, population 6800. (For a little context, the population of my high school was 3200.) But I loved life in Litchfield and ministry in the two country churches I was called to serve. I began to see that in the context of southwestern Minnesota, Litchfield was a pretty big small town.
But: “I’ll never go anywhere smaller than Litchfield,” I said.
You know where this is going, right? After five great years in Litchfield, I moved my family to Saint James, MN, population . . . 4695. Which, as it turns out, is several thousand people smaller than 6800.
If you had told me eleven years ago, when I started seminary, or even seven years ago, when I graduated, that I would one day live in a town of fewer than 5,000 people, and that I would like it . . . I am pretty sure I would not have believed you. But as we close in on two years of life in St. James, I have to say: I do like it. I really, really do.
In the weeks to come, I’ll share with you a few of the things to love about St. James. They include: Schmidt’s Bakery, the library, the Princess Theater, and of course, the Dairy Queen.
I have stopped saying, “I’ll never live anywhere smaller than Litchfield / Saint James / fill in the blank.” But I do maintain: “I’ll never live anywhere without a Dairy Queen.”
What big or small surprises have you found lately?
What are your moving must-haves?