I have not really unplugged from the world. I have checked news sites every day of our vacation. I have kept up with most of my email. I have remained connected to what is going on in the world. But I have done a few things that I have not done in a long while. I have left my phone siting while I worked in the garden. I have played with my grandchildren while ignoring my email. I have gone for walks without taking along any devices. I think that I am beginning to model and learn a bit of what my life might be like in a few years.

Still, there are interesting connections. Text messaging allows me to remain connected with our daughter in Japan and we’ve been using FaceTime to stay up with our new grandson. I consulted with a colleague about music for a funeral via text. Yesterday, Susan was engaged in a flurry of texts just after 8 am local time. The person who was staffing the church nursery at home was running a few minutes late and texted Susan to inform her, even thought he knew that she was out of state. Rather than get him to contact the church administrative colleague, she acted as the middle person and made sure that the communication was completed. Fortunately we were only one time zone away and it didn’t interfere with our Sunday morning activities here, but we travel to Japan next week and things will be much different when we are in the part of the world.

Instant communication and 24/7 connectivity mean that we are able to do part of our work when on vacation and, for the most part, we don’t mind doing what we are able to keep the church running efficiently. We are aware, however, that over the years we have developed a style of leadership that involves a certain amount of doing things behind the scenes. When we complete our ministry in our current call next year, we will be ending some of those things that we do for the church and it will be necessary for the church to learn to trust new leaders who will do things differently. A year from now we won’t be on call all the time to make sure that the various systems of the church are all functioning. Over the next year we need to teach others about all of the things that are required to keep the church running smoothly.

I was paging though Mother Earth magazine last evening as I was winding down from a lovely day. I like to read the ads. It is a bit of a surprise to me how a magazine devoted to simple living and getting back to the land is sponsored by ads for diesel tractors, expensive mills and machines. One would infer from the magazine that getting back to the land involves a lot of power tools. I was marveling last night at how many companies make electric egg incubators. Apparently some in the back to the earth movement have decided that electric devices are more reliable than chickens. There was an ad for an incinerating toilet that requires no septic system. It does, however, require 240 volts of electricity, which doesn’t put it in the category of off-grid devices.

The ad that caught my eye, however, was one for an online training program to become a “Life Event Celebrant.” The ad promised an exciting new career in a rapidly growing field. Once completing the program, the individual is prepared to conduct weddings, funerals and other significant ceremonies in people’s lives. The ad caught my attention because, as readers of my journal know, that I what I’ve been doing for over four decades. I officiate at funerals, weddings, baptisms, confirmations, and a host of other ceremonies. And, from my point of view, it isn’t exactly a “rapidly growing field.” There are plenty of couples who live together without having a ceremony and it seems that the number is increasing. I haven’t noticed a decrease in the demand for funerals and end of life celebrations, but I have noticed that there are more and more of those events that are divorced form the traditions and ceremonies of the church.

It would appear, from the ad, that when people separate themselves from the church, they develop a need for ritual and ceremony. And there are people who step up to perform those ceremonies for profit. I’ve attended a few “secular” weddings and funerals over the years, and they are filled with elements drawn directly from religious ceremonies. In many cases the officiant is completely unaware of the history and tradition that surrounds the things they are doing. They think they have discovered something new when they are using words and ceremonies that have developed over a long history.

I won’t be signing up for life event celebrant classes. I intend to stick with the church. And, when our family needs others for the events of our lives, we’ll turn to the church for community and ceremony.

And that is the reason that I won’t be coming back to the church we now serve to perform weddings and funerals and other events once I have moved on from this particular call. I believe that the new pastors will need to develop bonds and connections with the congregation and without interference from the previous pastor. Weddings and funerals are ways to develop and strengthen relationships with new leaders.

I suppose that it is possible that I will miss being the one who is called to solve the various problems of the church. I might get to the point where an empty email inbox causes me to feel like I am out of the loop. Right now I am looking forward to the change. I think I will like being a bit less in the center of every conversation. I might even enjoy reading the ads in the back of the magazine more often. I doubt, however, that I’ll find a new career among those ads.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!