50 Shades of Grace

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a pastor again. I love preaching; I love caring with, and for, people. I love sharing in the sacred moments of life when we see God in expected and unexpected ways. To do these things well, though, you have to have time, and that was the one thing I was lacking in my life.

The year before, we started a nonprofit organization called the Center for Progressive Renewal. CPR is an international leadership development organization designed to help leaders start and renew churches. If you have ever started anything from scratch you know the demands it places upon you. Like caring for a newborn infant, you have to pay attention to even the smallest details. (It will be the small things you did not see coming that can take you down.) You have to build infrastructure that most of us serving in institutional settings take for granted, things like accounting and customer relationship management systems, websites that talk to both of those systems, contract templates, employee on-boarding packets, business cards, marketing pieces. You get the drift. At the same time, you need to work on essential relationships with colleagues, clients, partners, and sponsors. Then you need to develop presentations, curriculum, and resources, build consulting teams and write books, articles, blogs, and devotions. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, you need to be a spouse, mother, daughter, and friend.

It was not that I did not want to be a pastor again. I just could not imagine how I could do it all, be it all, live it all. Being a pastor is a sacred calling, not to be taken lightly. You can’t, or perhaps I should say that you shouldn’t, do it halfway. However, my partner in this work, Rev. Michael Piazza, was insistent. We couldn’t teach church renewal with integrity if we weren’t doing it. I hate it when he is right.

I have been the co-pastor of Virginia-Highland Church for almost 2 years. I do pastoral care by text message or e-mail, and relationship counseling by Skype because I am on the road most weeks teaching and speaking to groups throughout North America. Michael and I make sure that one or the other of us is always present on Sundays, and Sunday is about all the time that I can give to this little church. Sometimes I feel guilty about that. These amazing people deserve more. With each passing Sunday, however, as I look out at this congregation that is growing with new faces every week, I do not see signs of resentment. Instead I see nothing but grace. We have become a church of people who give what they can, when they can, however they can, and we offer grace to one another through it all. What an unexpected gift to be a pastor of such a church.

On Easter we started a new sermon series called “Fifty Shades of Grace.” We, of course, are playing off the title of the bestselling book series, and I hope redeeming some of the images of human relationships that they portray. As I am preparing my sermons for the series, I find myself thinking of the faces in our congregation, a diverse, amazing, fun group of people. More than 150 shades of grace worshiping God, serving the community, advocating for social justice, and caring for one another.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a pastor; I just didn’t know how I could do it all, be it all, live it all. Thank God I am, with the help of so many people. Jesus said it was by grace that we are saved; I now understand what that means.

I wonder how grace is shaping and reshaping your life. I find it does so in the most unexpected ways.

We are all in this together,


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