After 40 years as a Presbyterian pastor, Douglas Brouwer faced an existential crisis that would likely come as a big surprise to those outside the clergy.
What did all the hard work on evenings, weekends and holidays, away from his family, amount to? And in the current age of shrinking mainline churches, what could he point to as the end result of his decades in ministry?
"I was a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years. I loved most of it, barely tolerated some of it, and was grateful to be finished with much of it,” Brouwer explains.
Douglas says it took years for him to look at ministry in a new light.
"The fact of the matter is that I waited until I was quite well along, I was approaching 60 and thought there has to be more to ministry than this," said Brouwer. "It wasn't until I left the U.S., and left the Presbyterian church and served a church abroad that I came to see what a ministry could look like and what God probably had in mind for me all along."
Like pastors everywhere, Brouwer went into ministry to do life-changing work for God and ended up spending most of his time managing the parking situation outside the church, fielding parishioner complaints about the colour of the sanctuary carpet, and endlessly fundraising for mission projects and building maintenance.
“What had happened, I now realize, is that I had lost myself so deeply in a role and a title and a way of life that I was no longer sure whether I had an identity separate from those things,” said Brouwer.
Douglas is now sharing his journey through 40 years as a pastor in a new book, Chasing After Wind: A Pastor’s Life.
In telling his story, Brouwer comes to recognize that the most meaningful parts of his career, the “holy bits,” as he calls them, were in unexpected moments where everything was stripped away but the mysterious work of God. Recounting these times of curious joy and shared mourning, he demonstrates how a pastor can find grace and peace in looking back on a life in ministry.
Today on Connections, Douglas takes us on a journey through his 40-year career in ministry.