The following is reprinted from the newsletter of the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ blog.
I told them I wasn't a parish pastor.
My first gig was on the streets of the Southside of Chicago and I did no parish field work in seminary. I prayed in long houses in British Columbia and was perfectly at home inside a maximum security prison unit. Addicts and inmates, dying people and rebellious teenagers didn't daunt me, but I certainly wasn't a parish pastor.
This is not to say that I am without faith. The kind of ministry I have experienced is not for the faint of heart. So ok...I'll strike a deal. I'll come and preach and then go home. They agreed to that. Then I watched them.
They did everything at the church. They cleaned the bathrooms. They replaced toilets. They brought food. They prepared the bulletins. There was a dog who sat in the front pew and seemed to listen to my sermons. There was a piano player who could make all my favorite songs fill the sanctuary with joy. They never said, "We've done enough." They always said, "How can I help?" They never said, "I'm too busy." They always said, "I'll do that right away."
They didn't just talk about the unhoused in our downtown Phoenix community, they showed up in person to visit with them. They made hundreds of blankets for our asylum seeking neighbors in Mexico and convinced non-church community members to bring carloads of food to place at our altar before distribution to local food banks. The men clean up the kitchen. They know stuff about addiction, incarceration, poverty, LBGTQ issues and loss.. They're even fun, and they laugh and tease one another. They recently raised thousands of dollars to provide heat relief during our desert climate crisis.
After awhile, I started looking at their dear faces from the pulpit, and I realized that I loved them, especially the dog. It seems I'm a parish pastor after all. God certainly has a wild sense of humor.
I will not be among the hand wringers who prophesize the demise of the Christian church. I believe our strength is not in numbers, but in bold faith put into action. If we focus on acting out the Good News of the all inclusive Gospel, we can't go wrong. Black Mountain United Church of Christ has taught me that. I say this with good authority. After all, I'm a parish pastor.
The Reverend Dr. Kristina Campbell
Transitional Minister Black Mountain United Church of Christ