When Roads Converge

Excerpt from essay printed in Communitas

By Carrie Graham

Like many “bi-vos,” my work life involves multiple environments, though one sense of calling. At first, this approach to ministry felt schizophrenic, but seeing the common calling among multiple jobs has helped me appreciate it. That said, just as I settled into bi-vocational life, my multiple work environments have begun to merge to create a new sense of calling altogether.

Carrie discovered interfaith dialogue during her time at seminary and continued to facilitate interfaith dialogue twice a month beyond her work as a pastor in Austin. She was certain a natural intersection would emerge between her pastoral work and her calling to facilitate interfaith friendships. She eventually made the decision to leave the church she was serving and with the encouragement of a friend she began to dream of a church plant that would respond to the “increasing cultural pressure for people to embrace either religiousity of diversity.” The idea for “The Church Lab” was borne.

A year later, I am fund raising for the launch of The Church Lab and on a quick timeline that will determine just how many jobs I will need this year. When I get nerve wracked about this idea, I remember an email from one of my co-founders of the Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue Journal. She did not know I needed encouragement when she referred to me in her message as a “spiritual entrepreneur.” That is how she sees my calling. I hold onto that enthusiastically, resonating deeply with that phrase and being thankful that someone spoke it into my life. It helps me understand the risks involved with my calling as inherent to entrepreneurial activity, rather than simply crazy. In fact, I have come to think of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit as startlingly similar to the nature of entrepreneurial work. My friend’s comment also helped me realize the common thread among my multiple jobs: an entrepreneurial spirit.

I could see that in the development of my role in the Austin District office of the Methodist Church. They reached out to me as a pastor who knows how to work with people on the periphery of church life and Austin life, originally asking me to become a mystery shopper of churches. I evaluated websites and reported on the experience of visiting a specified list of churches. Soon after, they asked me to plan an anti-malaria campaign event during South by Southwest. One project turned into another until I was revamping their communications systems, including transitioning the district office— and over time its churches—into the realm of social media. Now I support social justice efforts to build a medical clinic in Africa and open Austin’s first Free Store.

My story is still unfolding. This vision for an integrated calling was fuzzy for years. Now I have clarity, though at times my bi-vocational life feels more schizophrenic than complementary all over again. I am doing multiple projects for the district, pursuing interfaith work, coordinating a new project for Austin Seminary, and missing pastoral work.

I am sometimes lost as to how to find funds to plant the Church Lab. Yet having work environments that allow me to use my gifts are testaments to God’s provision. I rest in the idea that the movement of service to God may often get messier before it gets cohesive. When I first left Mosaic, I fixated on looking for the next right “position.” Without answers-upon-demand regarding where to go or what to do next, I am learning to follow paths not marked by good job titles, but rather guided by ways I can serve well and wholeheartedly.

As I focus on chasing down faithful service, rather than a specific agenda, I have already seen that God will clarify for me a sense of how to serve, whether in one, two, or even three contexts. All in all, I’m committed to trusting God to have forge the path(s) I follow.

Carrie Graham currently has three jobs: developer and fund-raiser for The Church Lab, project coordinator for Ministers Facing Money at Austin Seminary, and communications and outreach specialist for the Austin District of the United Methodist Church.

The 2013 issue of Communitas marks the change, from a publication of the College of Pastoral Leaders to The Journal for Education Beyond the Walls. In this current issue, you will find four essays, including the one written by Carrie Graham that is featured this month, that we hope will stimulate the conversation on tentmaking ministry, by drawing on the tradition and by hearing from Generation Y and Millennial bi-vocational pastors.

Click here to read the "Gift of Bi-Vocational Ministry" issue of Communitas.



November 1-3, 2013

Build community with people who want to do pastoral ministry and … something else. Learn how to tell your vocational story so that other people will be inspired. Decode the structures that impact non-traditional ways of being in ministry. Meet people who are making it happen.

ELLIPSES is for longtime tentmakers, bi-vocational pastors, seminary students, and all those who want to help create new stories of serving God in ministry.

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