When I was little, I wanted to be a minister. It wasn’t a big focus of mine–I wasn’t like, “I will be a minister when I grow up”. It was more just one of several jobs that seemed cool to me and that I could picture myself doing. I loved listening to the minster’s sermons at church. Not the religious aspects of them, per se, although those messages were certainly moving and beautiful. No, I liked the way a minster could bring in all of these different stories–from the Bible, from his own life, from movies and books and stories and even just stories about things that had happened that week–and weave them together to bring out a new meaning. I loved the conglomeration of stories–high and low–all leading to a meaning or a lesson or a message about God or life. The only thing that always kind of stopped me when I thought about being a minister, was the God part. I wasn’t sure if I really had enough of a God calling to be a true minister. Suffice it to say that I would have been just as happy hearing those sermons and the collected anecdotes if they had merely served to illuminate something about life or human nature. It was the form that I loved and the fact that they spoke about God was important–but only secondarily so, for me.
In high school I was part of a group called Young Life. It’s a Christian social group–I am not sure which church runs it. My friend Bill Berry held the meetings out of his parents’ basement. His house was really big, located on Wood Pond in West Hartford. So, one night a week, I think it was Tuesdays, 20 or 30 kids from school would gather in Bill Berry’s basement for Young Life meetings. I think most of the kids, including me, did it because it was social. There was always some kind of activity for half of the evening, like a game or a project. These were silly games like you might do at camp. I can’t even remember them now. Which is telling, I think. Because my favorite part of the evening was always the end of the meeting when the leaders of the group would quiet everyone down and gather everyone in to listen to one of the leaders tell a sort of meditative story or sermon of sorts. It usually involved a very personal anecdote from the leader’s life–sometimes the stories and details were really heart wrenching. Looking back now it seems like they must have been encouraged to include self-revelation. They told about family problems or social problems they had been through or sometimes even problems with drugs or alcohol. Things could get pretty serious pretty fast down there in that basement with the brown rug and white paneling. Where kids had been squealing in delight over games a few seconds before, the room would suddenly be quiet and intense. I loved this. I was in my element. Listening to someone tell about her life and then hearing her link the story to a story in the Bible was just the meditative meaningful kind of shit that I needed on those Tuesday nights. I know most of the other kids in the room probably considered these little talks the thing they had to sit through in order to be able to play the games and hang out with the other kids there. But, this kind of deep revelation moved me. Again, I really don’t think I so much got the message about God though. I just liked the meditative quality of it. I like the storytelling and feelings and meaning.
So it makes sense to me, then, that writing non-fiction and blogging even appeal to me. These forms allow me to do just what my congregational ministers have been doing up there in church every Sunday morning throughout my life: Tell stories, elaborate upon some, make connections between books and people and religious texts and even history and pop culture and then draw them together into a whole that illuminates. Congregational ministers are experts at this. I think there is a bit of “down-to-earth” folksiness to the congregation style of sermons that really works for me.
Regardless, I write about this topic here and now because this memory of wanting to be a minister came bubbling up out of my memory a few minutes ago. This memory kind of frees me. It gives me license and a bit of context with which to indulge in this blog thing. And it gives me a bit of a purpose. Sometimes I feel like blogging and all that goes with it can be narcissistic and selfish or else I feel that I have to choose some trendy topic to write about. But, if I instead just go with my gut–my own longstanding impulse to tell stories and connect them and sometimes (not always) hopefully illuminate something larger about life and humanity, well then, here’s my chance. I get to be a minister. Here in my own little corner of the web.