28 December 2011

A Fictive Sabbatical

As some of you may or may not know I resigned from my position as Senior Pastor back in August. Since then I have been engaged in an inward search: evaluating my call to ministry (I love it now more than ever), enjoying fatherhood (as I write this post at the dinner table I am surrounded by my progeny: #1 is working on her Student of the Year application, #2 is practicing cursive, and #3 is using Ed Wemberley to help him draw animals), finding the depth of friendship (more on this later), and found the simple pleasure of reading fiction. Come to think of it, each of the aforementioned inward insights will receive a separate post in the near future.

I told friends when I first resigned that I was on a sort of sabbatical - sort of because most people when they take a sabbatical have a job waiting for them when the sabbatical is over. I feel my sabbatical has been/is a resting, re-creative, and rejuvenating experience. Nevertheless I couldn't help but "pun" around with my sabbatical terminology so I came up with a fictive, for indeed my sabbatical is fictive (in the professional sense of the word sabbatical), sabbatical because all I have read, by no grand design, has been works of fiction.

For years I have dabbled with fiction reading a novel here or there, I even created a sermon series based on the works of Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, but my dabbles were always - always - outweighed by a heavy dose of non-fiction: historical, theological, and practical titles.

So what has happened during my fictive sabbatical? I have developed a greater appreciation of dialogue, especially in the gospels. Also, I have developed a greater appreciation for the daily ins and outs of ministry. I believe fiction writers have more faith in pastoral ministry than most pastors do! How can I say that? They pay more attention to life, to light and darkness, to emotions, to how the past influences the future, how dreams create realities, how rituals transform (or tear down) individuals/families, & etc. I think pastors have and make these insights just as much as any fiction writer but we need to be reminded/nudged of them.

I will soon post a New York Review of Books type of review on Gilead & Home by Marilynne Robison and Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin and how they both represent (maybe even redeem) the pastor as a character in fiction and remind pastors (all members of the clergy, not just Christian ministers) of their importance in human life.


Carol said...

I would like to chat with you about the "character" of nature in le clezio's "star." At least it seemed lke a character to me, perhaps representing god's presence everywhere, in sorrow and joy, or god's lack of intervention, in sorrow or in joy. All the running water!

Steve Gretz said...

A good reminder of importance of reading fiction...in my 20+ years of ministry, I've always led a book group--in part to make sure I read at least one novel each month! We read Father Melancholy as a group some years ago--an excellent read, at the same time heartbreaking and healing.

Have you read "The Brothers K" by David James Duncan?

G. Travis Norvell said...

Carol - I did not have Le Clezio in mind for the latter part of the post but it is interesting how the clergy figure in TWS is portrayed in a positive light. How many times in works of fiction is the clergy portrayed as a character and not a full person. however, the more I think about it "the star" character is an amazing character in the drama of the novel. "the wandering jew" character I would say is redeemed in this novel; she is a full person trying to find home.

Steve, The Brothers K is now on my 2012 list.

cs said...

You might find The Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder moving and utterly fascinating. It is a look at the horror of Nazi Germany in conjunction with Stalin's own terror against his people, but with a less military and more human emphasis. Snyder attempts to bring to life the individual victims and he does so quite effectively by using authentic writings and notes found at mass grave sites. It's unforgettable.