A couple of months ago I sent some of you an email about my future at the church -- namely, that there is some buzz about making my position full-time with me in it -- and several of you have been asking if there's any news on that front. The big question was: do I really want to be full-time at a church? Is this the right next step? And it caused no small amount of soul-searching and pondering on my part. I was only asked if I would be willing to have that conversation; I wasn't being asked for a decision, and it could be as long as a year before such a decision even became a live option. But I also indicated in the email that I felt if I leaned into this it would probably happen, so the decision isn't completely irrelevant to the here and now. How I think I'll answer that question when it comes up has some inescapable bearing on how I comport myself in the meantime.
As my wife and I have kicked this around, we keep coming up against our own reservations. There's a kind of built-in distance to being part-time, a kind of buffer against getting sucked in too much. There's a certain attractiveness to not having employment by people to whom my "real" thoughts would be anathema as my bread and butter. And, at bottom, there's just a basic intuition that this is ultimately a bad idea. Seemingly insignificant changes to the church's internal culture or to my own tolerances could leave me desperate to get out, and being full-time could in and of itself prove to be too claustrophobic. Moreover, I think my real passion is teaching and writing, and the church needs someone whose real passion is worship. Not just music, either. I do church music because I'm good at it and I enjoy it, but that's not the same as being a person who sees their life's work wrapped up in the liturgical life of the church.
What's interesting here is that I had one of my regular meetings with our pastor on Monday, which I went into wondering if I should bring this up. I didn't need to wonder, because he brought it up, and it seems there have been some developments in the conversation that I assume come out of a recent elder's retreat. Going for a full-time worship person has been made more of a priority, and the nascent job description leads more toward a comprehensive "worship arts" producer-type person, someone big-picture enough to oversee drama, dance, tech, music, etc. I'm not that person. And the pastor gently articulated some of the same concerns about my academic life; they would expect a full-time person to be "all in" in a way that he thinks would cause me to shrivel and I know I would balk at anyway.
He was hesitant to bring all this up but I saw it coming, and headed him off at the pass, for which he was grateful. My current job is not in jeopardy; the preferred option is to keep me on as more of a musical director (which I like better anyway) and hire someone to be my immediate boss. The pastor also indicated that he had a personal interest in keeping me around for my brain, though he added something to the effect of "If only I had half your brain, or maybe just 40%," an idea that I hope he doesn't take too literally.