Yesterday I joined 71 other pastors in a twitter project called Pastor’s 24. It was a project suggested by my friend, colleague in ministry, and cohort in online Methodist geekdom (as of this writing, we are both featured in the blog section at umc.org, as we attempt to subvert the church with our newfangled communication ways), Jeremy Smith. Jeremy described the project in a blog post on October 19, and invited his readers to participate by posting to twitter their every pastoral action on Wednesday October 27. Yesterday, 72 pastors posted 1050 updates, providing an interesting glimpse into a day in the life of a pastor (or 72). Go to twitter and the hashtag “pastors24″ and see for yourself, and be sure to read Jeremy’s recap as well.
I was amazed by the outcome. I thought it would be cool and kind of informative, but for me it turned out to be much more.
I was inspired.
1. So many of my colleagues are so very prayerful, and pray in many places and in many ways. In a way I was watching people “pray without ceasing,” or as a monastic might do, mindfully work. Reading twitter and facebook, we remembered to pray for our friends, actual and virtual; in the shower we prayed for the day ahead; on our commutes, we prayed for our communities. And the rich prayer life reflected in this diverse (but let’s face it, skewed toward the twitter-using crowd) group of pastors was then pouring out in wonderful ways, providing counterpoint to the argument that the church is dying. Many tweets described meeting with people seeking baptism and membership, and several of us were meeting with, praying for, or actively working with candidates for ministry. Many pastors were engaged in work in the community with those living in poverty or great need, and several were out and about interacting with youth in their churches and beyond. The “church” was not confined to a building, and the pastors knew it, each and every one.
2. I did feel much more connected to my fellow ministers, and especially to my fellow working-parent-pastors. I was glad to hear that I wasn’t the only pastor nursing a baby at work, nor the only one who stopped work (at least temporarily) in the mid-afternoon to pick up children. I also wasn’t the only one discouraged by paperwork or overwhelmed by my to-do list, and I wasn’t even the only one who received an annoying robocall voting guide. More importantly, I wasn’t the only one who prayed while driving, or the only one who was banging her head against the social service systems to help those in need, and definitely not the only one who feels gratitude, humility, and joy (mixed with frustration and anguish at times, to be sure) to be part of this vocation. Today, I find myself missing that camaraderie, and that sense that we are all in this together.
3. I think I was a better and more intentional pastor yesterday. I was more aware of what I was doing, and which things I considered ministry. I noticed things I hadn’t been aware of before, like that I do breathe a thanksgiving each time I drive through Montpelier on my way to church because I love living and working and serving God here. And that’s prayer. I was doing things I normally do, and then excited to share them with others, not for self-congratulation, but because they–whether breathtaking or mundane–are part of God’s work. I found myself pushing to get things accomplished so they could be part of my 24 hours, and I actually got through a lot more stuff than I usually do on a Wednesday. Then I had charge conference on top of all that, but the small disappointments around that (low attendance, forgetting my planned worship liturgies) paled when seen in the gestalt of the whole day’s worth of ministry. I even felt better about the things I didn’t finish, and sent out a tweet where I gave my undone work back to God.
It felt like an examen to me. The way I think of an examen may not be by-the-book Ignatian, but it is taking some time to reflect on the events of the day and determine when I felt closest to God or most connected to my calling (and sometimes, when I felt farthest away, because that’s important to know, too). What things lifted me up? For what do I give thanks? What do I give back to God? This exercise of tweeting my ministry helped me be aware of the silly things that were annoying or when I felt far from God/my calling, and the many things that were uplifting and sacred and drew me closer to God and who God is calling me to be as a pastor and a person.
Which leads me to the thought, in connection with point 2 above, that I would love to continue this twitter community in some small way with those who are interested, using a common hashtag like #examen or #pastors or something to not only share our ministries throughout a day (and I do think we should make #pastors24 at least an annual thing!), but share our common work more often and reflect on what about it lifts us up or annoys the living daylights out of us. In our shared frustrations, I found some humor and consolation, and in our shared celebrations, I saw nothing short of the laborers in God’s vineyard.
Thanks to Jeremy and all the participants in #pastors24 for this experience.