The One Where I Move to Kansas

When I first answered a call to ministry, I think I told the Lord something to the effect of, “I’ll go anywhere but the Midwest.” Kind of like the biblical prophets, only a lot less holy and humble.  Here I am, send me…anywhere but Kansas.

Guess what. I’m moving to Kansas.

God’s funny like that.

You see, it all started when I got too dang comfortable. When I looked around at my wonderful, spirited, fun, affirming, and growing congregation in the desert and said—THIS. This is what I saw here, all those years ago, when I walked in to meet a faithful remnant. They were small, but they were fiercely dedicated. They were generous. They were visionaries who were ready for something…else. Something new and maybe a little weird, but something. I could see, in those early days, a glimpse of what God could build here with those gifts.

The day I realized that all my early vision pieces had fallen into place, I leaned in to get comfortable.

If biblical literature—and sit-coms, for that matter—teach us anything, it’s that getting comfortable is the surest way to get called up elsewhere. Windows and doors started opening right around the time I put my feet up. And I said, ‘no,’ and ‘not right now,’ and ‘maybe next time,’ and ‘that’s not my gift…’ and then I finally said—God, if you mean it, come back later.

Guess what. God came back later.

Yeah, God’s funny like that, too. (Note: have you noticed that when I get smart with God, God answers me back, big time? Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. You think I’d learn…)

Anyway—if this post feels a little frazzled, disjointed, and out of step with my normal rhythm of things, welcome to my life and brain and desk for the past few weeks. Sometimes that Spirit moves in like a mighty wind and rearranges everything—everything!—that you thought you knew, and suddenly, you can’t find your words.

But you know, beyond shadow of doubt, that you’d best move with it.

It’s a painful thing to leave a church that you love; that you’ve helped shape into something new; where the people know you and love you anyway, in spite of yourself; and have, in turn, shaped you into something new.  That is an impossibly precious thing to walk away from.

But, there’s this church in Kansas… And first of all, when I said ‘anywhere but Kansas,’ I’d never actually BEEN to Kansas. Turns out, it’s pretty close to Kentucky. In more ways than one. And anyway, there’s this church there. In many ways, they are a faithful remnant. They are fewer than they used to be, but they are fiercely dedicated. They are generous. They are visionaries who are ready for…something.  Something new and maybe a little weird, but something.  And in two short visits, I caught a small glimpse of what is possible there, and what God already has in the works. And I know—in the way that a few times in your life, you just know—that I’m to go and be a part of it.

So, in the spirit of this disjointed and already awkward post, I’m going to share some fragmented wisdom from the wilderness:

-A loving community that will bless you into ‘what’s next,’ however difficult it might be, is a tremendous and overwhelming gift.

-A spouse who will follow your calling to the ends of the earth—EVEN TO KU COUNTRY=also an overwhelming gift. There are no words…

-I’ve said it a million times to other people, but now I have to practice what I preach and trust that: God’s sense of time and place is not always the same as mine. This, for better or worse, is also a gift.

-Ministry is not a calling you answer once; it is daily. And so, too, must be the response. Even if the occasional ‘here I am’ leads to the occasional upending of all that is comfy and certain.

-Many things lose urgency when you know you are leaving. At the same time, many things GAIN urgency when you know you are leaving. I would be much more effective in ministry if I knew the difference, always, and not just when I’m actually leaving.

-God goes with us, everywhere.  Everywhere.

And everywhere, God is good.

Thanks for letting me ramble. And thanks for your prayers in this exciting, terrifying, kind of sad, but somehow just-right time of transition. If you are the praying kind:

-Pray for me and my family;

-Pray for Saint Andrew Christian Church and the leaders there, who are living through a transition of their own;

-Pray for Foothills Christian Church in Phoenix, and the leaders here who are ready for the next piece of the big picture;

And pray for the pastor who is somewhere, out there, right this very minute… saying, “I’ll go wherever you need me God. Anywhere but the desert.”

If you know that pastor, tell them that good things happen in the desert.  And that God has a wicked awesome sense of humor.

Much love, readers. I’ll keep writing through this shift. But be prepared for more fragments of things…

 

 

About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • Lisa Gammel Maas

    Blessings, Erin.

  • James Gawne

    Well, I can tell you for sure one minister who won’t be (struggling at first but eventually growing into) taking your place at Foothills, and that’s the one that grew up there (just can’t do it, y’know?).
    Anyway. Best of luck as you move to the “wrong” side of the rainbow ;-) and thank you for seven years of leading the church I called home for so very long out of the wilderness. And thanks for sticking around long enough to be part of my ordination! :-)

  • Judy MacKeigan

    Funny thing, after following your blog for a year I found myself tearing up at your announcement, as if I had to say good by. Which is silly, cuz I have never met you in person, or worshiped with you at Foothills. And you will still be here in my computer providing me with wit and wisdom. But I can feel your mixed emotions and that is where my tears came from, I guess! So where ever else God sends you on your journey, I am delighted that He sent you to the blogoshphere as well! Safe travels and praying for as little chaos in the move as is possible.


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