When the star the ancient Romans named Sirius comes closest to the sun, the dog days of summer are upon us. Sirius is the largest star in the constellation Canis Major. Thus the dog days, when all manner of creatures become languid, wine turns sour, and things generally bog down. Why, then, is this the time each year when interim ministers move to new towns and begin new ministries? Why were my husband Barry and I, with the help of UGNO (Unitarian Guys Night Out), unpacking and setting up our new home during the hottest days of the summer? And why am I trying to conjure up words of wisdom, the first that I get to offer to you through Soundings, when my brain is slogging along in low gear?
Instead of attempting to answer these imponderable philosophical questions, I decided to fall back on a story that captures the essence of the first message I want to share with you about the nature of interim ministry. Every interim congregation I serve gets to hear this story at some point. You can thank the dog days for the fact that I’m trotting it out first thing.
Several years ago at General Assembly, Rev. Judith Walker-Riggs spoke to our minister’s gathering about the importance of avoiding getting so stuck in cherished customs that we miss important opportunities to change direction and make a difference. She read us this brief radio transcript supposedly from the US Chief of Naval Operations, October 10, 1995.
Station 1: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Station 2: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
Station 1: This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again divert your course.
Station 2: No, I say again, divert your course.
Station 1: This is the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise. We are a large warship of the US Navy. Divert you course now!!
Station 2: This is the Puget Sound lighthouse. It’s your call.
The story may be apocryphal, but the moral rings true. It is your call. I am here to advise and consult, to offer an outsider perspective. The ultimate decisions as to the shape and direction of your future are up to you. It is possible for an aircraft carrier to change direction given time and patience and the requisite skills. Not so much the light house. You can go where you want to go. It’s your call. —
Now for some practical information. I will be available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with week-end availability as well. Call (227-7205 ext. 12) or email me to schedule an appointment. Thursday is my sermon writing/study day. I will work from home and will respond to email and phone calls. Friday is my day off. Don’t expect responses to routine emails or calls on Fridays. I always respond to emergencies, and my cell phone number is on my voice mail message at the office.
I am delighted to be here with you during your time of intentional transition. I look forward to talking with you, listening to you, worshipping and learning with you. In these final days of summer, I wish you respite and refreshment and a few more moments of languid laziness before beginning the work of determining the direction of your future. So here’s to the dog days, and let’s hope that our wine doesn’t sour!