Summer Song Series: Ramblin’ Man

Hi everyone! I know that I haven’t written anything in a while and that is because my family and I have just moved to a new church and a new town on the other side of the state. We are loving the new place and started to be “settled” so I am planning on getting back to my regular posting schedule of Monday and Thursday.

Over the summer my Monday posts will be a series focusing on music that has shaped me or influenced me in some way. Some might be more serious and some will be light-hearted. I will begin the series by sharing about a song that speaks of my childhood, my Southern culture, and relates to my life as an United Methodist elder.

My father introduced me to Southern Rock and I grew up listening to bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. One of the first CDs my dad gave me once I had a car and was driving was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Greatest Hits. I spent a lot of time driving around with that CD playing the background to my late teens with dueling guitar solos and lyrics longing for freedom and celebrating youthful independence and rebellion. (hint hint: I will be writing a post about some Skynyrd song this summer).

I wanted to start this summer series with a song that is really speaking to me right now: Ramblin’ Man by the Allman Brothers.  Check the song out here if you haven’t heard it. Growing up I loved the song because it talked about being from Georgia and mentioned Highway 41 a road that I spent a lot of time driving. However, I really never lived the life of a “ramblin’ man” until I began my life in ministry. For those of you who don’t know the UMC sends out pastors by appointment from the bishop of that conference and each appointment is set for one year. So technically we are dispatched on a yearly basis to be about the work of God and building up of the Kingdom and then we gather at Annual Conference to either be sent back or to a new place. This itinerant system traces back to the days of Methodist pastors on horseback riding circuits that took them to the various groups of Methodists under their spiritual care. Because both the country and the Methodist movement were growing so rapidly pastors needed to be sent out effectively to cover the most terrain and minister to the most people and with growth happening it was necessary to reaccess and redeploy on a yearly basis.

I am now starting my 10th year in appointed ministry and I am also now starting at my 4th church. I was fortunate to start serving churches will in a student in seminary and therefore I have moved after graduation and ordination. In and through these moves I have come to understand part of the call to be a itinerant pastor is similar to the lifestyle of the ramblin’ man in the Allman Brothers’ song.

  • It’s a Calling: The lyrics state “Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man” this was not something that they chose but it was something deeper about who they were. For me the calling into ministry was not my first vocational choice but was a byproduct of my growth in Christ and understanding who He had created me to be. I was born with this calling.
  • It’s Part of the Job: Moving is part of the job as the band put it they were “trying to make a living and doing they best I can”. I don’t love everything about the itinerant system but I understand its history and why we use it now. It is not perfect system but to me it is better than all of the others. My moving and leaving is sometimes just part of what it means to have a job as a UMC elder.
  • It’s Not Personal: The Allman Brothers put it this way “when its time for leavin’ I hope you’ll understand that I was born a ramblin’ man”. We don’t leave churches because we want to get away from the people (ok maybe sometimes but this is not the norm). We move because that is what we do and because we trust the Bishop and the Cabinet to deploy us where we are most needed. Some pastors are able to spend years or even decades at the same appointment and have seen fruitful ministry. Others move every 3-6 years and see fruitful ministry as well. Leaving is done because we no longer love or care for the people we serve but is done because our system functions to get pastors to the churches in the most efficient and effective way possible so that the Kingdom of God might grow and that people will come to know of the Good News of salvation.

As I am writing about rambling around the state of Georgia I must confess that I hope to stay awhile where I am at now. Rambling is not easy on pastors or their families. It is not a surprise that the circuit riders were mostly single and young and died young. I know that my children would love to stay at the same school for more that a few years and my wife to make friends without worrying about leaving them soon after the friendships are established. So the rambling has been fun and we have seen many new places and met many new friends along the way but maybe my next post will be about making a place a home. However, I know at some point that call will come because “Lord, I was born a Ramblin’ Man.”



One thought on “Summer Song Series: Ramblin’ Man

  1. I’ve been ITINERANT since 1955, having been born into a parsonage home. Never had a quarrel with it – it just is! Technically – maybe I was five years away from pure itineracy (yeah, for some reason there’s only one “N” in this form of the word) since I did four years undergraduate and first year of seminary without being under appointment. But still – that’s 55 of my 60 years as an itinerant.

    One slight exception – these last three years I requested an assignment on loan to another conference – choosing our place to retire before actually retiring.

    This choice (though I am still under itinerant authority) is a radical departure for me, and has opened my eyes to what I have been missing….namely, a clear passionate identification with a particular place.

    I sometimes wonder if the itineracy made more sense when you put in your 5, 10 or 12 (or more, yeah) traveling years under Mr. Wesley’s authority, and then “located” to build your family. Of course that was back when they were literally called “worn-out” (as opposed to retired) clergy.

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