The Pastor On The Ladder

by Kellan Day

Go my children with my blessing, never alone. Waking, sleeping, I am with you; You are my own.

This one line of a hymn played on repeat in my head as I trekked out to Spokane for ten weeks this summer.  Having never entered the Pacific Northwest, my heart throbbed with nervousness and my hands weakened as they grabbed my flimsy plane tickets. My mission for the summer was to “discern a call for pastoral ministry.” And to paint an art mural – all 350 square feet of it.

Salem Lutheran Church, in short, was the faith community that wrapped its arms around me and taught me again that I wasn’t alone. As I was preparing to design the art mural, it was Salem’s mission and sacramental theology that inspired most of the content: a church rooted in its community, committed to seeking shalom and a place where others – who may be different than the cultural norm – are able to flourish.  Mentally handicapped, physically disabled, gays and lesbians, the poor and the rich, the young and the old – all were welcome at Salem. So their building must reflect that, right?

Never alone.

Here in this community, enveloped in Salem’s support, I designed the art mural with three sharpies and many cups of Indaba coffee. The wall was then primed in a sheer white, and the design was drawn on the massive wall. I wasn’t alone. Adam helped prime and Kai helped draw.

Painting came next. For two and a half weeks straight, I was up with the sun, heading to the wall to paint. Never alone. Janice and Cheri painted with me almost every day; Janice refused to leave until I had descended from the ladder. These two 60-year-old women were my intimate companions for those weeks.

And the rest of the community stopped by too – delivering Gatorade and dark coffee, offering many words of encouragement, asking to paint a stroke or two, and giving us a break with their conversation. The mural was not painted alone: West Central and Salem Lutheran painted the mural with their chatter and offerings of praise.

And it was in those moments of communality and sweaty backs and paint running down our faces that I realized ministry happened. It was in those moments that I realized that the pastoral calling is so much more than the traditional roles assigned to the pastor.

For a pastor is not called to be a pastor just in the pulpit or as he or she breaks the holy bread. No – a pastor is called to be a man or woman who will listen to the stories that spring forth from mornings of painting.  A pastor is called to bless those who walk by the mural and offer their words of praise. A pastor is called to listen to the words of an aching person and community. A pastor is called to paint. And to leave art wherever she walks.

We do not do this alone but with the body of Christ around us and the Spirit moving through us.

Thanks be to God for those who taught me how to be a pastor this summer. And for the many stories in the scorching sun.  And for your communal love that reminded me frequently that I was never alone.

salem lutheran mural

Kellan Day is a senior at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. When she is not perusing sacramental theology or creative non-fiction books, she enjoys picking up a paintbrush, immersing herself in wild mountains and forests, or exploring the foreign terrain of new recipes. She plans on attending Seminary for her Masters of Divinity after taking a gap year that will [hopefully] provide rest, clarity, and new passions.

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