A few people have been asking about the weekend we just spent out in Berkeley, CA. Sarah and I flew out so I could interview for a high school youth ministry position at a large evangelical PC(USA) church in Berkeley. If you only want the short version of the story, the job didn’t work out. This complicates a lot of things in our lives, and means – at least for now – that I’m planning on working at Starbucks (or wherever we can get health insurance) and doing Cleave Design on a closer to full-time basis.
I’m still trying to process how to share the longer version of what happened. We flew out for this job interview feeling pretty positive both about the position and my chances for getting it. I’d had great interactions with the folks from the church prior to the interview, and it seemed like a ministry position that could work out for a few years. It was at a large (over 1600 members), more conservative evangelical church – which, if you follow this blog at all, you might wonder “Well, that’s an interesting fit for you, Adam.” And you’d be right – I had known it was not going to be an exact fit from the beginning. But I was hoping we could figure out a way to negotiate that and still partner together in ministry to high school students.
However, over the course of the weekend, it became more and more clear to Sarah and I that this was not going to be a good fit for us. Let me say upfront that the church took good care of us. We stayed with a wonderful and gracious family (who even loaned us there Lexus convertible to drive around in for 4 days). We met with many people from the church and had some great interactions. I also got to have dinner with some high school students on Friday night and teach Sunday School as well. These were probably my favorite times the whole weekend – my time interacting with the students, and envisioning doing ministry with them. These were times when I felt energized and most alive.
But throughout the weekend, it became more and more apparent to me that the church had a lot of questions about me and my theology, some questions about my ability to teach the more conservative theology of the church in good conscience and were really focused on certain issues like pluralism and sexuality. My blog was also brought up a few times, specifically my post on Faith House Manhattan. I think if I had not referred to this faith community as “a beautiful portrait of the kingdom of God,” it might not have raised the red flags that it did for some folks in the church.
By the third interview, it felt more like an interrogation than a conversation about a possible ministry partnership. There is a lot more I could share, but in the end, Sarah and I realized this was not a place for me – it was not a good fit for us. I’ve been able to reflect more on the decision to withdraw from the process with Sarah, Kenda Dean and others, and it’s been encouraging to hear affirmations of our decision as the right thing to do. In some ways, this weekend was a blessing (even though it now brings about some pretty big financial struggles). It was a blessing, and an unexpected gift, to receive some clarity about my call to work with youth and young adults. I’ve wondered all along if that’s really where I wanted to be – but through a variety of circumstances, that call was clarified this past weekend. It was also a gift to find out that the church was not a good fit prior to actually taking the job. We have to trust that God has something waiting for me in the East Bay that will be a much better fit than this position would have been. We don’t see anything now, but we have to trust.