A Pastor without a Congregation

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“Welcome to outside the dome, Traveler. We have been waiting for you.”

Of all the messages I received on my last day of pastoral ministry, this may be my favorite.

I’ve been a pastor for the better part of twelve years, and worked in parish ministry for a good six years before that. The only thing that’s lasted longer in my adult life is my marriage. Until Adam asked me to write for this series, I hadn’t thought much about pastoral identity because for a long time now, pastor=me and me=pastor.

That doesn’t mean I had no life outside of pastoral ministry. Nor does it suggest that I approach my everyday life all “ministered up.” I mean it more in the sense of seeking congruence in my professional and personal identity. I want to be the same person in the pulpit as I am with the swim team carpool—though there are obviously different expectations and norms in each place.

Now I’m a pastor without a congregation.

READ THE REST at Adam Walker Cleaveland’s blog Pomomusings. And check out his whole series on pastoral identity.

5 thoughts on “A Pastor without a Congregation

  1. Charlie Chadwick

    “I want to be the same person in the pulpit as I am with the swim team carpool.” That’s a challenge for all of us whether we’re pastors or not. Separating your life into compartments seems to be more common than I would wish. If being a pastor-without-a-congregation helps maintain or increase being the same person for you (I don’t think you ever really had much of a problem with it!) than this could be an exciting time. When I retired in 2013 I told my colleagues, “In six months you’ll have trouble remembering my name.” Probably the nicest surprise I have had is that wasn’t the case. They still email me and call and invite me to gatherings. Sometimes to ask advice (the fools) or to just to catch up — I exchange opinions on So You Think You Can Dance performances with one of my former interns on a regular basis — and she doesn’t even work for the same company anymore! The point is that what was important was being the same person “in the pulpit as in the carpool” (neither of which I have done) or they would have forgotten my name. I doubt anyone will have trouble remembering your name. I look forward to seeing you down here in Charlottesville again!


  2. Kathy Bostrom

    MaryAnn, I understand the challenge you’re going through. I wrote about my identity crisis after leaving pastoral ministry after 30 years in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Horizons. It was far more difficult than I expected. It takes time to embrace the new congregation of readers that you’ll never know or hear from – and to trust that God needs you and your beautiful words to reach into that larger world. What you are doing now is a calling, a vocation, and I know you recognize that. Bless you for stepping out of the place where you were into the place where you are. God will bless you and so many others through you (and already has).

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