I began itinerating when I graduated from high school in 1993. Since then…
- 1 year at Bluefield College as a commuter.
- 3 years at King College as a resident.
- 1 year with my parents as an unemployed college graduate.
- 2 years in Webster Groves, MO in the US-2 program.
- 1 year in Cambridge, UK in the Time for God program
- 8 months back living with my parents in Bluefield, working lay-away at a department store the mall that was liquidating during Christmas!
- 18 months in New York City working for the General Board of Global Ministries.
- 3 years in New Jersey in seminary.
- 5 years at the Sabra-Highland-Jones charge in Morgantown, WV. Began that as a newlywed ended that time as a new dad.
- 2 years at Greenview UMC in Bluefield, WV. That ended prematurely, but also as a new dad again.
- 1 year at Cedar Grove UMC in Parkersburg, WV the whole time looking to move out west. Had two houses in that time.
- 15 months commuting to Sunnyside-Centenary UMC in Portland. That ended with a church closure. I’ve been to Portland maybe 3 times since then.
- 6 months and counting at Orchards UMC in Vancouver, WA.
So I saw an old picture of myself with my US-2 classmates. I couldn’t even find myself in the picture. Then, I did a double-take. Was that me? What was I like then? I don’t really remember. Yet, I know my own narrative about that era of my life: idealistic, hopeful, enthusiastic, wide-eyed, scared but daring, ready and wanting to do tough stuff.
I loved that era of my life. I loved my classmates more than anything. I loved who they were helping me become. I loved how courageous I could be because I had friends helping me be courageous.
And that’s when I really began to unravel. Those friends are in the past. I see them on Facebook. But they don’t know my wife; I don’t know their kids. I am happy when they seem happy and bothered when I hear of their bad news.
The worst part is that by moving around, I have met lots of tremendous people. I met this guy Andy MacKenzie in Cambridge, who is an artist and loves youth and old people and is just the most chill guy you’d ever want to meet. Then I left Cambridge and have never seen him again. The problem is that I fall in love with people left and right, and I never get to stay around them. I closed a church not 6 months ago and they all feel so distant. And the rules for itineracy are completely sucky, despite the fact that I agree with them. The rules are for the church (which I love) and the good of the congregations and parishioners (which I love) and for the success of the next guy/gal (whom I respect) and I have to “Just suck it up, Lebron!”
When I make the list I made above, it’s no wonder I feel like I don’t have any real friends. I had one chance in Morgantown to make lasting relationships. But that list reminds me that I’ve had to say good-bye 13 times in my adult life. That’s too damn much. Too much for a reluctant loner. My friend-making muscles were never that good to begin with; now they haven’t had to work in years. So I catch myself with these new folks at Orchards: I’m admittedly desperate that they’ll like me. And I’ve been sensitive to the criticisms and overly hard on myself over failures.
And I miss that idealistic, hopeful guy from 1998. I’m still idealistic, still hopeful. But it feels buried under the grief of itineracy. I have to keep reminding myself that all appointments have been different. And I’ve loved all of them. And God has been with me all along. And God is still faithful and waiting for me to be fruitful.