Day 45 – I Have a New Job (Just Not the One I Was Expecting)

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Sunday – October 12, 2014

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This is such a misleading photo. I don’t know why I used it.

Today, it happened. Four wards dissolved in the Fresno East Stake and six new ones were created. If the preceding sentence makes absolutely no sense to you, I highly recommend reading yesterday’s post in which I explained what was then only a potentiality.

So, yes, boundaries were redrawn and our ward, the Fresno 7th Ward, got cut into pieces. Erin and I ended up in the McKinley Ward, which is also the ward that most closely resembles our previous ward, but with about a third less people. We lost a lot of friends. No, they’re not dead, but we won’t see them as much in the future now that we’ll be attending at a different building. There’s not even a chance of running into people in the hallways. Lots of tears in the room tonight as all this was announced.

Butler BuildingAlso part of the announcements: everyone was simultaneously released from their callings (ie, jobs within the church). The key difference between the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) and most every other church is that we are run–from the very top on down–by a lay ministry. No one makes a dime serving in the church.

No one makes a career out of it either. Callings are extended to members and they are expected to take them. That’s part of the commitment we make at baptism–to sacrifice our time and talents to serve in the church. But every calling comes with a release. You may be a Bishop one day–in charge of running a 500-person ward–and the next day be released and called as a nursery leader, instead pouring water from a pitcher into 8 little Dixie cups for 8 little Mormon rugrats. In my time in the church, I’ve been a teacher of children, teenagers and adults; a counselor; a secretary; and financial clerk. I don’t have a lot of time for this stuff, no one does, but we all serve gladly anyway. It just plain feels good to serve the Lord in these capacities, and we know we’re serving each other as well.

Six new wards meant six new Bishops, and they were identified immediately, during the meeting. Six new Bishops meant each of them needed two new counselors and three new secretaries, a group collectively known as a Bishopric. These were all also identified.

20 minutes before the meeting started, Erin and I were called into the Stake President’s office. There, he extended to me a calling to serve as the Elders Quorum President in the McKinley Ward. An “Elder” is one of the offices of the priesthood and the Elders Quorum is generally the largest “quorum”–or male group–in the ward. If a Bishop is like a pastor and his counselors like assistant pastors, then the Elder’s Quorum President is like an assistant pastor that leads the men.

What do you call that? A specialty pastor? Is that a thing? I don’t know. I’ve been to lots of other churches, but I’ve never been clear on the different rankings of pastors.

Stake President Nef made it known that there was some hesitation about calling me to this position because of my status as unemployed. Not because they doubt my abilities, but because I could up and leave town to pursue a job at any time, and they know that. But like an annoying tick you can’t shake off, they couldn’t get my name out of their minds and made the ridiculous and ill-advised choice to call me to the position anyway.

That’s the other thing about callings: really, they’re from the Lord. Lots of prayer goes into each and every one of them. I can’t imagine what President Nef has been through the past several months as he tried to sort through all these changes and the dozens and dozens of callings he’s had to extend.

I’m of mixed feelings about the whole thing. I’m incredibly excited to take on this responsibility and throw myself into this job that pays terribly yet yields high rewards, but how long do I really have to do it? I’m interviewing with two different companies right now, both of  them far, far away. It’s entirely possible I’ll just get things started in the Elders Quorum so I can make it easier for the next guy. Or, maybe this is the next three years of my life. I don’t know.

What I do know, immediately, is what I want to focus on as President. I want us to take care of each other; to do a better job reaching out to those around us–particularly those who do not attend church–and let them know they are loved and that someone is mindful of them. It’s a tall order, but I hope to be able to inspire the brethren I lead to do exactly what Christ commanded Peter to do when He said, “Feed my sheep.” There’s lots of people starving in one way or another. I  think we’re in a position to help.

But before any of that noise gets to happen I really need a couple counselors of my own. And a secretary. This job is way to big to do it alone for too long. Lots of my own prayers ahead in the next week.

After the meeting, lots of people congratulated me on the calling. I’m honestly not sure that’s entirely appropriate. For one, it’s not like i did anything to get this calling. There was no campaign and desire on my part to have it. There’s simply no “moving up” in the Church, and certainly nothing we gain based on our own merit. Secondly, this calling is tough.

I generally prefer to offer condolences when someone gets a calling, particularly one that will require a real time and emotional commitment. To lead and set an example is work. It’s not always easy, and, like I said, the people who serve in the Church don’t just do church stuff. They have all of their regular, normal life responsibilities as well. They have jobs.

Well, most people do, anyway. There are some notable exceptions.

Day 44 – Faith/Religion in the Blog: Sprinkle or Shower?

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 11, 2014

powerI was on deck as the Stay-at-Home Dad today, a role I fill with complete and total adequacy. It wasn’t quite supposed to work out this way, but Erin had a lot of places to be and I trust they weren’t all “day spa.” I’m actually quite happy to be the parent on deck. I think the (quite excellent) job Erin has done raising our kids at home over the past 12 years is maybe the hardest job a person can do. It’s child-rearing, it’s cooking, it’s cleaning, it’s taxiing, it’s giving comfort and aid, it’s educating, it’s disciplining–it’s all of that, 24/7. No real breaks or vacations. I think I could do a more than adequate job if I had to, minus the cooking part. It probably helps that she loosened the lid a bit and our household already runs like a well-oiled machine.

Since it was Saturday, I started the day by taking Cami out to the Heart of the Horse Horse Therapy Ranch for her half hour ride. Once again, she had a hard time letting go. She let everyone know, forcibly, that she wanted a couple more laps before she was willing to be her usual, agreeable self and get down. Seeing her assert herself like that and make her wishes known is a new thing. I like it.

The rest of the day was spent in the house with the kids, sneaking in an occasional bit of writing here and there. At 4pm I had a church priesthood meeting at the Stake Center.

I’m going to try to unpack this as best I can:

Mormons attend church according to geographically designated “wards.” Everyone who lives within certain boundaries attends church at the same time, in the same building. A Bishop and his two counselors run the ward according to the direction they receive from the Stake President, who leads the stake. A “stake”* is made up of about 6-10 wards. The Stake President gets his direction from the Area Authority who leads many Stakes. You can can follow this on up the chain to the President and Prophet of the Church himself, Thomas S. Monson.

*Why “ward” and “stake?” I don’t know. We’re not crazy people and we’re not building tents or killing vampires at our churches, so the designations only seem right to me by virtue of the face I’ve been using them all my life.

But let’s stick to the local level.

So, this afternoon was a meeting at the Stake Center–the chief meetinghouse where the Stake President has his office–of all the priesthood brethren in the Fresno East Stake. In the Mormon church, boys and men 12 years of age and above hold the priesthood. This means I ill-advisedly number among them, but I’m glad for it on several levels–not the least of which is the brotherhood we all enjoy.*

*Right now, admittedly, my interaction with everyone is a bit different than usual. Those at the meeting who met my eyes all asked the same question: how’s the job hunt going? I’ve lost a bit of my identity in that way. I may as well wear a badge that says “Hello, My Name Is Unemployed.” It’s okay, though. I understand how it is. It’s always nice to know what to ask a person to create an instant conversation. Makes things easier. 

To get further away from the point of this blog and back to the topic at hand, I’m giving all of this background info so you can begin to understand the frame of mind everyone was in today as we went into the meeting. You see, there is a rumor there are big things about to go down.

The rumor is this: that all the ward boundaries are about to be redrawn. While there have been slight adjustments from time-to-time, if this rumor pans out, it’ll be the biggest change in over 25 years.

It’s a necessary change because of the shifts in population growth over time. For example, my current ward, the Fresno 7th Ward, was one of the smallest wards–if not the smallest–in the Fresno East Stake when we moved in 10 years ago. Now, it’s far and away the biggest. We’ve got people sitting in the choir section and on the floors in the foyer because we’re just too big to handle right now.

If the change does happen, it’s going to quite difficult for many people. Our closest associations happen at and through church. Friendships will be tested as people will be moved to different buildings and simply not able to be in as much contact with each other as before. I remember when this happened to a friend a friend and I between 6th and 7th grade. Our ward split and he went one way and I went the other. He got new friends and I didn’t see him as much. I hated it.

This time around, I’m looking forward to it. It didn’t happen in today’s meeting, nor in the second, general adult meeting in the evening, but I don’t think anyone really thought it would.

Still, there’s a sense of finality in the air. Tomorrow, we have another special meeting. We’ll see what happens.

* * *

I didn’t go to the second meeting because I took my turn with the kids again so Erin could go. To her surprise, a friend of ours, Jennifer Ward, was one of the featured speakers and she made lengthy reference to this very blog. She even quoted a fair bit of it. I gave permission for this to happen, but didn’t think to ask during which meeting it might occur. And I didn’t tell Erin about it. She was somewhat… shocked to find that suddenly the hundreds of people in the chapel with her were learning all about her unemployed state. I was super bummed I missed it.

Jennifer’s purpose was to hold this blog up as a positive example of how to share faith online without being preachy or hitting someone over the head with it.

I hope that’s what I do, if that’s what I’m doing at all. My faith is not my focus here, but my faith is a big part of who I am so naturally it’s appropriate at times to share that perspective and insight. Sometimes it’s a sprinkle, sometimes a shower.

To be honest, I’ve never been particularly interested in preaching to the choir in my writing. It’s a far more interesting challenge to try to reach outside of my world to reach others. It’s just more exciting to me.

You all are better judges than I am. This particular entry was obviously a little heavy on the Mormon of it all, but I don’t think I go to this well too often.

Do any of you read other blogs by people of faith? Does it bug you when they don’t shy away from that, or do you appreciate it for what it is?