I was a lonely pastor in my twenties. I lived alone in a town of 400 and was the solo pastor of a lovely church with a very part-time organist and – until she died after tripping over the mimeo machine in her kitchen – a volunteer bulletin person.
It was the kind of place where people phoned me if they saw a light on in the manse at 3 am – concerned that I might be sick. It was the kind of place where – if out of town guests were visiting – everyone commented on the out of state cars in the driveway.
It was the kind of place where I left town on my Sabbath – either taking the train to NYC for an overnight with ALC or driving the short distance to Manchester, VT for the day where I ate blueberry pancakes at a little place across the street from an independent book store. And then I spent the rest of the day in that book store. I read art books and poetry and it saved my life in terms of my loneliness.
I also read The New Yorker cover to cover every week because it was my escape. I lived in far upstate rural New York and it connected me to the city.
Sometimes I wrote notes to Peter Cameron after reading one of his stories and sometimes he wrote back. Once I attended a reading by May Sarton at the independent book store and I wrote her too. She sent me a an autographed book of her poems. I had time to do those things. Living alone = more alone time.
Today, for the first time in a long time, I read The New Yorker cover to cover. I read about construction issues at the 21 Club and about the sad Paisley Park museum where Prince used to live. I read a cute story by Simon Rich and a book review for Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein by Leonard Bernstein’s oldest daughter. I read some articles about politics in Mexico and looked at all the cartoons. It was like eating dessert all day long.
Call me elitist/blessed/lucky. Whatever you wish. But what’s lovely today is that TDA and I are the former co-moderators of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA. So I took Monday off.
Cover of The New Yorker on August 28, 1965. (Mom’s 32nd birthday)
I measure my time in New Yorkers. I am currently 2 NYer issues behind. It’s my little space and time of culture and intelligence that I treasure. So sorry to hear of the mimeograph tragedy. Pathos and bathos… which appear to be the purview of pastors everywhere. I’m glad you got some well-deserved down time.
I believe I was one of those out-of-state cars in your driveway back in the day, migrating away from my own Maine loneliness – and out of the depth of yours you brought the greatest hospitality. You’ve paid your dues many times over, and it’s pink-tickling to see what you paid coming back to you as abundant life. Thanks for your story, for your work, and for being alive!
Good for you. You served the denomination well. You came to Blackhawk Presbytery and gave a power point about the future church. Did you happen to keep it and is it available for purchase?
Cathy- I’ll look for it. No purchase necessary.
AMEN, Honey. I get it!!!Joan
Yes you do, Joan. Thank you.