From Pastor Karen to Karen Goltz, Writer

My last post was the transcript of the last sermon I preached as an ELCA pastor. I ended that sermon stating that I didn’t know what my life would look like in three months. I didn’t plan on this, but it’s been just over three months since I preached/wrote that.

And this is the first time I’ve been on this blog since.

My life doesn’t look all that different than it did last spring. I’m still homeschooling my kids, I’m still working on my novel (editing and revising my first draft), and I’m still doing all the things I need to do as a stay-at-home wife and mother.

But things are different, too. I’m not a pastor anymore, and I’m still getting used to that fact. It hasn’t been easy.

The worst part is that the pastor of my home congregation retired just before I got dropped from the roster. The synod did not assign an interim and the congregation depends on pulpit supply for worship leadership. I’ve done a lot of pulpit supply there over the years, which I loved, and I was always well received by the other members. So it kills me to go there now and know that I can’t help out with worship leadership during this transition. Technically I can still preach–lay preachers have preached there before–but I would have to restrict myself to the pulpit and not preside at the altar. I’d be stripped of my clerical collar, my stole, and my title. I’d have to stand where I’ve stood many times before, only this time I’d have to stand there and pretend I’m not a pastor.

Maybe it’s pride, but I just can’t do that.

I haven’t worshiped at my home congregation very often in the last three months.

At first I was nervous about attending worship as a non-pastor. I was afraid I’d see the pulpit and the altar and be reminded that I can’t do that anymore. Fortunately I was traveling my first Sunday, which was a great excuse to not attend church. The next Sunday was the Day of Recollection at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, MA. I’m in the process of becoming an oblate there, so I had to attend that service.

It was the best place I could have been.

Glastonbury Abbey is a Benedictine community of monks, and they conducted a Catholic Mass. I’m not Catholic. I wasn’t reminded of my loss because I’ve never preached in that pulpit. I’ve never presided at that altar. And I was never going to. Some of the monks know of my career in ministry, but they’ve never related to me clergy-to-clergy. I’m in their oblate program. I’m a regular retreat guest. I’m the weird retreat guest who comes there not to rest, but to work. I’m the writer.

The monks know me as a writer.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been trying to re-imagine myself as a writer. More than two years ago I published a post entitled Pick Up Your Pen and Write, in which I wrote about this very thing. In that post of August 26, 2014, I stated, “In the next year or two I’ll be removed from the roster and cease my pulpit supply. I’ll be writing until that happens, and I’ll continue writing after that happens.”

I did, and I am.

I used to be a pastor who wrote. Now I’m just a writer. Church is still difficult for me, and it’s going to be until the congregation calls a new pastor, but I’m attending again. And I’m continuing in the oblate program at Glastonbury Abbey, where I was never known as Pastor Karen.

Seventeen years is a long time to cultivate a pastoral identity, and it’s going to take more than three months to cultivate a new, non-pastoral identity. But Karen Goltz, Writer has been in the background all along, and I’m trying to give her a little more attention.

I don’t think it’ll be another three months before I post here again.

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