04 February 2010

A Room of My Own

In seminary I obtained, by honest means, a copy of The Living of These Days: Autobiography by Harry Emerson Fosdick. I swallowed the book within a reading or two; sitting in my favorite grooved chair (must know the Simpsons to fully appreciate that reference). I read it for tips, I wanted to know how H.E. Fosdick became H.E. Fosdick. I remember feeling a bit let down after finishing the book. It did not answer the questions I had.

Then again I wasn't ready for his life. I related solely to his call. I had a now deceased friend read the passage where Fosdick said he wanted to make a contribution to the spiritual life of his generation. That spoke but the rest didn't. For nine years his ministry track and mine were nowhere near parallel.

Then I accepted the call here. In no way am I comparing SCABC (terrible acronym by the way) to First Presbyterian Church, Park Avenue Baptist Church or The Riverside Church. I take that back for in some ways I do believe the congregations do share a sisterly liberal Protestant bond. SCABC is a stable church, with a realistic active membership of 250 with a consistent 90-110 in worship on Sundays.

The church is on a great American thoroughfare, next to Tulane and Loyola Universities, Audubon Park, and Loyloa Law School, there is a fantastic B & B on the next block, the street car runs up and down the Avenue, Habitat for Humanity uses our second floor, and a law office that specializes in anti-death penalty cases uses a good portion of the lower floor (before him ACORN's first offices were here). All to say that this is a noisy place, phones, footsteps, cell phones, delivery people, parcel people, people needing directions, people need aid, people needing to sell the pastor something. I, naively, thought I would benefit from the traffic, the energy, and the hustle and bustle. For the previous nine years I had worked in small membership churches largely in isolated settings.

After six months of work here I realize to the degree I treasure and need silence for study and reflection. It is impossible to center on a thought, an idea (I was away for 30 minutes while typing this b/c someone stopped by), with any sustained energy. Now do not get me wrong I love it when people stop by - thus open office hours. Nevertheless, I am undertaking a very Fosdickian practice: holing up in a room away from a phone, foot traffic, or internet access.

Fosdick was able to rent an office in Manhattan in an office building with no windows; I'm not there yet. But I was able to take advantage of this grand old building and commandeered a hard to find and unusual room. It has a window, is nearly impossible to find, and best of all it is silent. I have read more this week than in the past month. I have been able to chew on an idea for a good amount of time.

Will this mean better sermons? More prolific ideas? Will correlation = causation? Those are questions only the future can answer. I do know that the revitalization of this congregation is going to take the hard work of every member and will rely on the vision by the pastor which will be pieced together from the lives of the congregation. It will require deep thought, sustained thinking, and silence.

Off to a room of my own...


kbrown said...

Oh no my groove! It took me years to forge that groove..

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kbrown said...

ooopp my bad

What is the Bible?

G. Travis Norvell said...

Kbrown. Glad you "got" the Simpsons quote but I have to disagree with your assessment of Haiti. There is an American imperative to help our neighbor Haiti. True our foreign policy did not cause the earthquake and the 200,000 that have died. But nor are we innocent that the land has been raped forcing massive emigration to Port au Prince.

True there is suffering everywhere but not to respond to the sudden shift of pain and suffering of our Haitian brothers and sisters is unacceptable!

CT said...

Amen brother. I wholeheartedly support your move. I am reading "The Simplification of Life" by TRK right now. I don't think non-stop action in the end is the best use a minister's time.