This Week’s Purge: Ghosts from a Previous Life

Christian Tools

Over ten years ago, I surrendered my creditials as an Elder (a pastor) in the United Methodist Church. Making that decision was difficult, but over the years it has proven to be even more difficult to let go of the tools for ministry. I scaled down my collection of books when I moved out of the last parsonage. Several years later, I gave a district superintendent a couple of robes and half a dozen stoles.

The objects in the photograph above represent the last of the items I’ve kept:

  • the two crosses are models of a larger cross I encouraged a congregation to hang over the altar-table in the sanctuary;
  • the paten (plate) and chalice I used to serve Holy Communion in small groups and on retreats;
  • the silver chalice on the right I never used. It was a gift from a friend in seminary, who coincidently also left full-time ministry;
  • the framed picture in the background is a calendar of the Christian year. This object is the hardest to give away. A coworker and friend gave me my first calendar like this while I was still in seminary. I bought one every year since then, including one for this year. That means there are over 24 calendars in that frame, one stacked on top of the other.

I’m giving these items away because I’ve found someone who might use them. I’m also doing it as a part of The 100 Thing Challenge. I’ve kept these things a long time, so obviously it isn’t easy to let them go. But I need to do it. I don’t need them and they no longer define who I am.

8 thoughts on “This Week’s Purge: Ghosts from a Previous Life

  1. I know the pain/grief. It is your grief and do not let go of any of it until you are ready. Some of us clean out one closet at a time while other of us can only clean out one drawer at a time. Shalom to you my friend.


  2. Wow, I can’t do any of that yet. I still have all my books, my robe, 2 sets of paten and chalice. I have a complete set of commentary, I never open, but look at often, that is a step/wound I can’t address. Will I go back to full-time church ministry, I don’t think so, but that was who I was to become….Wow, really is all I can say. Prayerfully….


    • Jill, I’ve been getting over it longer than you. There’s no hurry, really. Things just sort of trickled away for me.

      But, I have to say, I am honored that you commented. I had tunnel vision about the whole thing. I only thought about my specific circumstance. When the church fails to recognize and rejoice in a person’s gifts, it hurts no matter what the circumstances.

      I find it hard not to become bitter. Perhaps I am a little bitter. From this side of things, looking at the continued decline, seeing how fearful everyone is, it’s so tempting for me to say, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” I swear, if it were not for my children, I’d be long gone.

      I am challenged to practice what I preach. Grace does not come easy.


  3. That is a tough thing to do. I don’t know if I could do that. I would often wonder if maybe my son might want them, as it was a part of my history. I understand what it reminds you of. But I can say this, Doug…. Just because you are no longer an “Elder”, doesn’t mean you still are not a good minister for God’s work and his word. That can’t be taken from any of us. That is what we are ALL charged to do.


  4. Thank you Doug, for sharing this. I cannot even imagine what you have been through. As I struggle daily with what God calls me to do, I know that the choices I make shape my life and help me become the best minister I can be. God has called you, and you answered–and you are still becoming who he wants to you to be.


  5. Hi, I’m new to your site… and just want to say “Thank you” for sharing yourself. Your blog is very insightful. The very last sentence of this entry really stuck out to me… “I don’t need them and they no longer define who I am.” As a pastor, I often struggle with how that defines me for the rest of society.


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