I just received an invitation to attend the installation of the new bishop of the synod where I serve as a pastor. I feel very uncomfortable about this, and I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. Let me explain.
The installation of a synod bishop is normally a huge occasion, a festive affair. In our synod, installations are usually held in churches of other denominations, because we just don’t have any Lutheran church buildings big enough for the number of people who attend. In addition to dignitaries of other denominations, neighboring bishops, and our presiding bishop, there are usually hundreds and hundreds of rank and file clergy and layfolk there to celebrate this occasion that usually only occurs once every twelve years or so. If this were a normal year, I’d still feel uncomfortable going, but for a very different reason: because I get uneasy around such large crowds.
But this year is, of course, not a normal year. There were several attempts to schedule an installation, only to have it fall through due to COVID numbers stubbornly refusing to cooperate. Finally, a decision was made that it would be held in the Lutheran Center, our synod “home office” in Allentown. Attendance in-person would be limited to a very small number (both because of the size of the Lutheran Center, and also COVID restrictions), but the service would be live-streamed so that any and all who wanted to observe could do so.
When I heard about that, my initial reaction was joy! I would get to watch the installation live without being surrounded by such a large crowd. Honestly, the lockdown hasn’t been completely unpleasant for introverted old me. I was looking forward to watching it on my computer by myself, maybe pacing around the room and getting some steps in during it.
Then I received notice today that I am among the small number of invitees. After my initial shock, I realized why that is. Our synod is divided into nine “mission districts,” geographic areas which each have about thirty or so congregations in them. Each mission district elects a Dean, a pastor who serves for several years as something of a liaison between the mission district and the bishop’s office. (That’s not exactly the role of the Dean, but it’s close enough.) I am currently serving as the Dean of my mission district, and I’m very confident that’s why I was invited to the installation. I’m not sure if the Deans have a particular role to play in worship, but whether we do or not, certainly that’s why I was given the honor.
And I am really uncomfortable with that honor. It has nothing to do with COVID – I trust those who will be preparing the service completely. I am sure it will be as safe as possible, and then some. It’s because I don’t see why I, of all people, should be included in this select group. I don’t belong there. I’m just an idiot who got roped into serving as Dean. I’m nothing special. And I’ll be taking the place of someone else who could have been there. Who could be present at this momentous occasion who will miss it on account of me? Who deserves to be in attendance at this holy day? Who will be watching it online, thinking, “I should be there?”
Maybe this is a case of impostor syndrome, the feeling that you haven’t really achieved anything befitting of some honor, the feeling that you’re not qualified for your job, the feeling that you’re just not good enough for…whatever. It’s probably my depression talking, because I can also hear it whispering right now that it’s not just the bishop’s installation I’m unworthy of. I can hear it telling me that I’m not good enough to be a pastor. Not good enough to be a father. Not good enough to be a husband. Not good enough to bother doing the editing on my book. Not good enough to work on the other two projects I’ve got going right now. Just good enough to curl up and play video games.
It’s so hard to fight that voice. It’s so convincing. It speaks to me in a language he and I have developed over the years, a language informed by songs from my adolescence and movie quotes and all the breakups and disappointments I never forget. I’ve got songs going through my head now that I can’t even explain.
I’m trying to write again, but the voice is even telling me that there’s no point to this. I’m trying to carve time out of my day every day to do this. Eventually, I tell myself, I’ll use this time to edit Darkwater into hopefully its final form. But for now, I write these blog posts. I’m forcing myself to do this, and it’s hard. I keep getting sidetracked and distracted and attacked from within. I feel like such an impostor even writing this. Even posting this. Ugh.