When strangers gathered for banquets and learned I was among them, I was asked to bless the meal.
At Thanksgiving gatherings, Christmas, Mother's Day brunch, everyone turned to me for prayer.
I've buried every aunt and uncle in my clan. My own mother asked me to do her funeral. Years later, when she died and I asked to sit in the congregation with the rest of my family, my siblings were baffled. It took them years to recover from my betrayal. Such is the life of a cleric.
Now, I'm a playwright.
I rise early, make the coffee and open my notebook. My mind and imagination are filled with the voices and mannerisms of the thousands of characters I left behind when I left the church.
The story flows; no interruption, no judgment. If I am lucky, my stuff will one day emerge before crowds of critics. People who have never laid eyes on me, never asked me to baptize or bury, will hear my holy words.
Oh, yes. . . I published while I was preaching. The Star Tribune ran my work every other week. But the church was not amused when I wrote about alcoholism, child abuse, dead-beat dads or abortion.
These, I learned later in life, are topics loathed by the church and welcomed by the theatre.
And so, my ministry continues. My sanctuary however, is changed to a stage of thespians, audiences rather than congregations. No more benedictions - only overtures, intermissions and applause.