For ten years I photographed weddings. Then I became a minister. These two vocations make my working years look like book ends with me standing at both the front and the rear of the chapel.
When people hear that I have been a wedding photographer and a minister they summarize my work experience as “one who is able to take pictures, read the Bible, and drink coffee”.
They might as well tell me that I know nothing about life or people or real work.
As a wedding photographer, I dealt with a myriad of personalities each Friday and Saturday. Many times I had never met the bridal couple or attendants until I walked through the door.
I would arrive at the bride’s home and, within five minutes, I would have memorized 15-20 people’s names. I then needed to juggle the demands and personalities of those 15-20 people over the next 8-10 hours while still doing my “job”. In addition, most of them had started drinking by 9 A.M.
Over the years, I had many experiences of juggling those personalities alongside my photographer duties. As a photographer, I was also the wedding coordinator, problem solver, anxiety calmer, and only rational thinking person there. I pinned boutonnieres, straighten ties, and fluffed dresses while simultaneously looking for the best lighting in the room.
I had groomsmen moon me, bridesmaids pass out in the bathroom before the bridal dance, and cakes collapse. I photographed Christian weddings, Jewish weddings, atheist weddings and Gothic weddings. I also photographed two arranged marriages and a mail order bride wedding (not kidding)!
I dealt with angry, drunk people. Happy drunk people. And a few sober ones. I had wedding parties that hugged everyone including me. And I had in-laws that wouldn’t be in the same room which, of course, made those group photos loads of fun!
Then, one day, I was standing at the front of the chapel officiating the wedding instead of photographing it. Pastors do more than officiating weddings though. But some people seem to believe we do little more than preach sermons, teach bible study, and drink coffee.
Although I confess, I do drink a lot of coffee!
As a pastor, I do preach and teach the Bible which means I also need to read it. However, there’s also the people element involved that your average Joe never considers about your job.
I have had church members yell at me over light fixtures, coffee pots, and toilet paper. I have counseled people about marriage, divorce, and children. And I have cleaned toilets, shoveled walkways, and replaced smoke detector batteries.
I have sat with people as they have walked through some of their best days and some of their worst days. I’ve been with them after they were told about cancer, learned their loved one was dead or were served divorce papers.
I’ve counseled people on the verge of divorce, people grieving their infertility, and people wrestling with how to tell their family they were gay. I’ve helped people file for food stamps, give their child up for adoption, and turn themselves over to the police.
I have visited jails and prisons. I have fed the homeless in Brightmoore and Cass Corridor. And I’ve kissed newborn babies.
Someone asked me recently how a friend would describe me and what I do. I told them my friends would say I was deliberative and idealistic. The person thought I was overthinking it.
But now that I have had time to think about it…
My friend would say that, despite all the ugliness I have seen in this world, I’m still an idealist who believes people matter to God. And I drink a lot of coffee!