Starting Over: Huntington Beach

Installation at St. Peters

Starting over can be exciting, especially in ministry. But it can be dangerous as well. When we jump into a new job, role or duty in the church we can’t help but think about how we can bring a new energy or point of view to the congregation. It’s easy for me to pray and dream about how the community would benefit from one change or another.

But, in doing so, I often fail to honor the tradition or history of those who have put their own blood, sweat and tears into what already exists. In the process of thinking of or introducing a “needed” change I end up belittling something that may have had a profound impact on someone’s faith or life. It makes it hard to sit back, watch and learn about the culture of the church and surrounding neighborhood. Patience is a virtue because so few of us possess enough of it.

At the same time, there is a reason I was called to this church at this time. The balancing act of old ways, new spins on old techniques and new philosophies of ministry are often lost in a mirage of excitement.

At the ripe age of thirty, this is a lesson I have continuously had to re-learn.

Over the last two years I’ve been ordained, commissioned, inducted, decommissioned (which was changed to a send off in hopes of a continued relationship between the PCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in Malawi) and now installed. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind.

Now that the storm has settled a bit, I finally feel like I’m in the place I’m going to be for a while. Huntington Beach is wonderful. And St. Peters By-the-Sea is a great church—a community ripe with potential. I’m trying to rest in God’s grace while learning about what role He has for me. To do so, I am fighting the temptation to move and shake before kneeling and praying.

My last sermon in Malawi was on God’s Sovereignty and how it relates to leadership. There were 8-10 Malawian pastors there, so I talked a good amount about being called into leadership and, specifically, into ministry. Here is a clip from my manuscript:

In Malawi it seems being a pastor is a sought after and respected job. If you become a pastor, it is like you have obtained some sort of rank. People look up to you like you are a chief. (ASK CONGREGATION: “Am I right?”) In many homes you are seen as an honored guest and are served first. While everyone else sits on the floor, you sit in a chair…you get the picture. I’ve even been told that sometimes people here aspire to become pastors because they want that status. To these people I want to say, “You’re in the wrong job. Jesus was washing feet and serving his disciples, not sitting around getting big, fat and happy.”

Before Malawian Induction Service with Vasco and Sydney

I went on to say that we need to follow the Apostle Paul’s message, “follow me, while I follow Jesus.” Vasco Kechipappa, the Moderator of the Nkhoma Synod (which means he is in charge of about 140 churches), was in attendance and had been in the middle of a nasty countrywide attack. I told the congregation that we all followed him, because he is this type of leader.

A few weeks ago his two-year term came to an end, and even though he was hoping he wouldn’t be re-elected, he was…collecting almost 90% of the votes. People follow him because it is so clear that he is seeking after Christ with all of who he is.

It is my deepest desire to lead this way—Patiently praying while following the Father.

The Stress of Getting Settled

Fargile? Someone was tired while packing...

It’s crazy how stressful moving can be. There is something about coming home from a new job to a new house that welcomes the old friend of anxiety. And there is something about driving on new streets or going for a run in a new neighborhood that brings about the old friend of confusion.

Everyday you set goals like, I’m going to unpack ten boxes and organize half a room. And then you end up putzing around in one box because you find something that you haven’t seen in five years. When did I get that? or Why do I have this? The boxes speak of what once was. Each is full of stories and memories. But if you hold on to what once was too tightly, it’s hard to move forward with what’s happening now.

Two years ago I was a stay at home husband. It wasn’t exactly a title in which I took pride. I looked for jobs, but couldn’t find one. It was a blast getting to ride my bike and surf as much as I wanted. I enjoyed cooking and taking care of things around the house for my wife. But, deep down, it stressed me out. It got old very fast. A year ago I was getting ready to move to Malawi. I packed up my life into a ten by ten storage unit. I was worried about moving all the way to Africa and about saying goodbye to what was comfortable. It too stressed me out.

And now, I have a job that I am going to love. I live in a community that I am going to love. I live with the woman I love. I’m not far from family and some of my best friends that live less than 15 minutes away. And…it’s stressful.

As a trophy husband, as uncomfortable and humbling as it was, I eventually reached a place where I was at ease with my role. And, believe it or not, I actually could have lived in Malawi longer than I did and would have been just fine. I know Hailey and I will grow to appreciate our new community in Huntington Beach and I know my gifts are a perfect fit for my role at St. Peters By-The-Sea. But that doesn’t make the transition easy.

I look forward to actually being here. But for the time being, the process of settling down is simply unsettling.