April 17, 2006

The Pastor's Study

The pastor's study is an expression of his or her professional self.
--Carl S. Dudley, Effective Small Churches

My study is a room in the parsonage, directly across the street from church. The desk is situated opposite the window, which, from where I sit, frames the 123 year-old church building.

The desk used to be right up against the window, which allowed plenty of diffused sunlight to illuminate my working space most days, eliminating the need for a desklamp. However, having most of the room behind me, not to mention the doorway that leads in and out of the room, made me feel uneasy. I'm sure a study of feng shui would explain why this is, but all I know is that I prefer being able to see the room and the view out the window, even if it does mean I have to use artificial light to illuminate my workspace.

Other than the desk, which belongs to the church, all the furniture in the room is mine. Even the bookshelves, which aren't nearly big enough, I bought at thrift stores. I always keep my eyes peeled for a good deal on a bookshelf. I have actually read most of my books cover-to-cover, and the rest I've read significant portions of. I like having the books on shelves where I can see them. They are a visible reminder of the unseen cloud of witnesses that surrounds me: fellow sojourners in faith, some still alive, some recently dead, others who walked on this earth many centuries ago. When I get that bigger bookshelf, I'll be able to bring out all my books, including the ones on the built-in shelves in the living room, and the ones hidden away in the storage closet.

Several books, however, will never find their way to a bookshelf: my Bible and my hymnal. Every week I use these, for study, devotion, and worship planning. They have a permanent place on the desk itself, next to the phone. They are often joined by magazines and prayer books, though these I do try to keep put away.

High on the wall behind my desk chair hangs some Tibetan prayer flags. In fact, I have a number of prayer items: the Lord's Prayer in lace, made by my great-grandmother many years before I was born; a wall-hanging made in Bosnia-Herzegovenia that says "PEACE;" a cross from El Salvador. On a small round table next to my desk are several friendship bracelets which I haven't yet put away or given away; making them is an occasional prayer activity for me, much like making the palm-leaf crosses was.

And I have candles, which I sometimes use.

On the wall next to the door is an old mirror in a wooden frame, which I found one day not too long ago in a storeroom at church. I know nothing about its history, where it originally came from, or where it used to hang. The glass has a slightly yellowish tint to it, and in some spots the backing is discolored. But I like it.

Every so often I'll pull out a diploma and hang it up. For a long while I had a plaque on display announcing my being Chapman University's "Outstanding Senior of the Year" for 1993. But these have always found their way back into a drawer or storage bin.

As I sit behind my desk facing the window, the bookshelves are to my right. Against the wall to the left is a futon which folds down to a queen size bed. Since it is in the house, my study is also our guest room. For the past several days, the futon has been in the bed position, since my dad and sister were visiting for Easter, and just left this morning.

When in the bed position, the futon's broken frame---a testament to a wrestling match by the teenagers who have "adopted" us---is supported underneath by my dictionary and concordance, stacked on top of each other. At other times, I use these two large books, along with my biggest commentary, as a low workout bench. Lined up, with an exercise mat placed over them, they work fairly well.

When I meet with folks, I either sit on the futon beside them, or wheel my desk chair (another thrift store find) around to the other side of the desk. I don't like talking over the desk. It seems impersonal, and, for one who has a short attention span, the magazines, books, papers, etc., are too distracing.

What does all this say about me? That's the question asked by Carl S. Dudley in the book quoted above, which I've been assigned to read for the Summer Collegium. I guess it says that I value the connections I have to the past, and to other people and cultures. It says that I'm searching for truth, and that I don't have all the answers (as a framed diploma on the wall would suggest). It also says that I'm frugal. Or stingy. I prefer to think of myself as a good steward. But I really could use a bigger bookshelf.

By the way, I write this not from my study, but from a table on the second floor of the K Street Mall in Sacramento. Earlier this morning, I worked on my sermon at a local Starbucks. (The public library, I discovered, is closed on Mondays.) The kids are all out of school today due to Spring Break, and I'd never get anything done at home. Locking the door wouldn't work, and even if I went across the street to the church, they'd find me.

It's not just my own kids, but also the neighbor kids from up the street. It doesn't matter how nicely it is put; if I tell them I need to work, what they hear is "Get away, I don't want to see you," which isn't true at all. This way, I get work done, and they don't get their feelings hurt.

I guess that's one of the drawbacks of having your office/study in your house. It's true that working from an "undisclosed location" as I did today makes me hard to find not only for teenagers who want to play, but also for church members who want to get hold of me. However, tomorrow school is back in session, and until then, I hope the church folks will understand.

What else does my study say about me? I don't know. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know....

1 comment:

peripateticpolarbear said...

I think your study is a great reflection of your eclectic, slightly sentimental, bookloving self!