The week before I went on sabbatical, I called a friend and left a long message. I was sobbing as I wondered who I would be for fourteen weeks if I was not Pastor Meggan. Would I like myself? Would I have fun? Turns out it was not a problem. This week had me remembering that part of my identity is Jerry Manlove’s daughter. Two friends in different parts of the country texted me photos–one of my dad’s book, “The Common Book of Camping” and the other of someone telling Jerry Manlove stories (camping and ELCA Youth Gathering stories specifically). It is rarely a burden to be Jerry Manlove’s daughter. I also love and deeply believe in church camping. And I am proud of all my dad accomplished. Occasionally I wonder if I will be able to contribute to the world in the way he did but this week, in-between texts from friends about my dad, I got to have a few remarkable conversations.
An old classmate called to ask me about camping ministry. I really was an ugly duckling student at the Univ. of Chicago Divinity School. My final project was a study on how to do worship well at camp, presented in the courtyard of Augustana Lutheran Church in the middle of Hyde Park. Anyway, even though my classmate is in another denomination in another part of the country, it was amazing what we were able to talk about. Twelve years on local camp boards and six years on the national Lutheran Outdoor Ministry board have taught me a great deal and, maybe more important, given me relationships with so many quality camp professionals.
Another classmate, from a different school, put me in touch with someone who wanted to talk about Nazarenes, Lutherans, and ecumenism in the Mountain West. Now I knew when I moved to Southwest Idaho that I would learn about Latter Day Saints, but I had no idea how much I would interact with the Nazarene denomination. It is a big diverse tent here in Nampa and there are definitely places where I can come to table with Nazarenes even while there are some areas where it’s still best to go our own way. All of my learning led to a good conversation.
Finally, someone called from Ada County and wanted to know what tips I might have for a church that wanted to put affordable housing on its property. The Trinity New Hope affordable housing board, staff, and friends have taught me so much over the past five years. Some of what we have learned together has been painful and some has been infused with joy and hope. I tried to share as much of it as possible over the phone Thursday morning.
Pastoral identity in the 21st century is something many of us are simply figuring out the best way we can. Our training did not necessarily prepare us for the church of today. I am thankful to be a life-long learner and to have mentors (chief among them my mom and dad) in my life who taught me that relationships are key to all ministry–no matter the circumstances–not superficial or transactional relationships, but actual relationships.