Writing in the Wake

Posted on January 3rd, by nicholas in chris brown, creativity, ministry, rumination, theology, vocation, writing. 2 comments

Writing in the Wake

{Chris Brown reflects on his time spent writing, his pastoral vocation and what makes them similar.}

Three days a week, from 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM, my calendar is marked with “Writing.” The reality is, though, that I don’t spend every minute of those two hours writing.  Before turning on my computer and beginning to write, I sit in silence with a candle lit in front of the icons on my desk. Then I pray through a liturgy for Matins or First Hour prayers.  The first words of the morning belong not to me or to my writing, but to the Lord.

I’m a pastor, ordained to “the ministry of Word and Sacrament.” At my ordination service four years ago, the pastor who gave the charge told me that “Ministry is what happens in the wake of the pursuit of God.” Just as a boat travelling quickly through water sends waves rippling out behind it, our experiences of spiritual growth and transformation should send ripples of God’s power out around us. My friend’s charge to me that day was to “make a wake” in my pursuit of God.

This is the reason behind the pious picture I just painted of my writing routine:  both my pastoral work and my writing are part of a bigger picture, a larger vocation, that of seeking the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Richard Foster, in an essay about spiritual writing from A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect On Their Art (Paraclete Press 2008), says “As writers, our first incarnational task is to be ourselves filled with this life we are talking about” (p. 173).  The same is true of ministry.  As a pastor, my first task is to be filled with life I’m preaching. As a writer, my first task is to be filled with the life I’m writing.

Drawing from the same well as I pastor and write has led me to an interesting convergence in my writing and ministry. Over the past few years, the Lord has led me to an increasing love of integrity and a deep desire for honesty and authenticity.  The wake from this pursuit of the One who is Truth is turning into a book about the pursuit of integrity.  At the advice of a good friend, I’m writing the book in a gradual process that includes members of my church.  Once a month, I send out a chapter to a handful of church members and friends who expressed interest in what I’m writing. A week after they get the chapter, they come over to my house for a meal and discussion of that chapter. Our goal is to both allow my writing to be directly part of my ministry at The Upper Room, and to sharpen the content of the book through the insights of my friends and congregation members. Put another way, this is how I’ve invited them into the wake of my pursuit of God, and how they are helping me steer the boat forward.

This past Sunday, after a dinner of curried lentils, we sat down in my living room to discuss the topics of this month’s chapter: St. Athanasius, the Fall, theosis, God’s integrity, and Jesus as incarnate Truth. The conversation danced between theology, ethical quandaries, and suggested clarifications and improvements on my writing. Two people emailed me redlined versions with helpful comments and corrections. Now it’s time for the revisions to begin.

Thankfully, the pastoral vocation is one of constant revision.

Each week rhythmically moves toward Sunday, always presenting another opportunity to revise our ministry in light of what the Lord has been teaching us. We drop the bucket into the well, then draw it up and offer to our flocks words which we hope increasingly reflect the True Word.

The same is true with writing. “The words of the Lord are pure words; / As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Our words are not yet pure. They are continually in need of revision because we continually need to repent.

So again this morning, I return to my desk for prayer, light a candle, and sit before the icons. During my morning liturgy, I pray once more the words from the end of Psalm 90, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; / And confirm for us the work of our hands; / Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”  And then my hands begin to write.


Christopher Brown is a co-pastor of the The Upper Room, a new worshiping community in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. He’s also a barista in a local independent cafe. There he enjoys drinking coffee and talking about faith with folks whom he wouldn’t see within the walls of a church. You can read more of his writing on blog - christopherbrown.wordpress.com.

Follow Chris on Twitter: @brwnchrstpher

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2 Responses to “Writing in the Wake”

  1. Ryan Strebeck says:

    thanks for this, christopher.

  2. Stephanie says:

    It takes a lot of humility to have others read and openly discuss what you’ve written, but what a beautiful way of building community. Thanks for your post!

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