More rambling thoughts

For several years, my work as a UCC educational consultant, my service on the Board of the Association of United Church Educators, and my work with the corporate board of Local Church Ministries meant that I traveled quite a bit and met with members of the United Church of Christ in many different settings. A common response when I shared that I was from South Dakota was, “I know someone in South Dakota. Do you happen to know . . .” Most of the time I would know the person named because it was likely to be a member of the United Church of Christ, which is not a large group. If the person was from Connecticut or Pennsylvania or another more populated area, they would be surprised that I knew their acquaintance. I’d respond by saying that South Dakota is a state with a small population, so I know everyone in the state. Of course that isn’t true, but it made for an entertaining conversation.

Another thing that surprised people from the Eastern United States is the size of the geography of western states. I’ve served as an active, ordained minister of the United Church of Christ for 42 years and I have never served a congregation that was in the same time zone as the Conference Office. That fact often amazes folks from places where our congregations are closer to each other. I love to joke that Chamberlain, SD is a great place for meetings of the South Dakota Conference because when we drive 210 miles for a meeting and the folks from Sioux Falls drive 140 miles for the same meeting they honestly believe that they have come half way. Actually, I appreciated the move to South Dakota, where we live only 350 miles from the Conference Office. We moved from Boise, Idaho which is 450 miles from the Conference Office in Portland, Oregon.

Of course those distances don’t matter very much these days. Traveling to attend face to face meetings is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Improvements in technology and video conferencing were already making travel seem like a needless expense to do the work of the church. Then the pandemic hit and face-to-face meetings quickly became a thing of the past. Zoom, Go To Meeting, Microsoft Teams and Webex seem to be the most common places for meetings to occur these days.

I think that the timing of my career, however, suited me well to the ministries of my time. I’m sure that I could become accomplished at all of the online and social media ministry that is required in this day and age, but it certainly is not my best skillset. On the other hand, I rather enjoy getting in a car and driving across the state. Unlike some of my east coast friends and colleagues, I don’t mind a day’s drive and for me that is likely 400 or more miles. I remember a conversation I once had with an east coast colleague who told me that he really hated it when he had to drive 30 or 40 miles for a meeting. When we lived in North Dakota, we drove 180 miles one way to do a bit of shopping or to be seen my a doctor.

I guess it is a matter of perspective whether we are talking about distances traveled or people that we know.

As Christian denominations go, the United Church of Christ isn’t one of the large ones. We have a very important place in the history of the United States, and we have a unique leadership place among Christian denominations, but our impact is not based on the number of members or the number of churches in our communion. As a result, we are used to finding common friends even when we are meeting with those in distant locations. It was no surprise to me that the lead pastor of the church we are connecting with in Bellingham, Washington mentioned to me last week that she is friends with the Interim minister that is serving the congregation we served here in Rapid City. They have probably served on the same committee or met through a regional or national meeting. That is the kind of church we are. People know each other. We are a family.

It is reassuring to me to know this about our church as we go through what is, for us, a huge transition. My friends have been asking me how it is going in my retirement and I haven’t yet figured out how to answer that question. Frankly, everything seems very strange to me. I have plenty of work that needs to be done, but I am less organized about getting it done than I have been at other phases of my life. Some days I feel like I am not accomplishing anything. I am frustrated by the lack of progress in some areas of my life. I remember when we thought that two weeks was plenty of time to prepare for a move, but getting prepared in two months seems like a very challenging goal at this phase of our lives. The distance we are moving isn’t intimidating to me. I don’t mind the driving. What intimidates me is the process of sorting and choosing what to take and what to leave behind.

I fill my days with tasks that need to be done. I’ve done some paining projects. I mow the lawn. I make repairs that I have deferred for years. I have a hand truck that has had a leak in the tire for at least five years. I would just add air and use it and then it would go back into storage until the next time it was needed. Yesterday I fixed the leak. It wasn’t the only accomplishment of the day, but at least it was a task that I started and finished in the same day. Right now I’ve got a lot of things that are multiple day projects. I’ve started a lot of things, but haven’t finished many.

I keep hoping that I’ll get organized and get my act together. In the meantime, I guess my journal will be rambling and scrambled.

Copyright (c) 2020 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!