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July 8, 2013

Shooting for Some Boredom

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

This afternoon, I was asked what I wanted from my ministry now that I have lasted 8 years as an ordained pastor. I thought about it for a second and said the first thing that came to my mind.

“I’m shooting for a little boredom.”

Why? Yes, there have been many shining goods during my time – the Baptisms, marriages, worship-leading, comforting the sick and dying, being there for the struggling; guiding evangelism (in good times and bad); the ministering to the homeless population of New Jersey; serving our district and circuit in various capacities; serving our local fire department as chaplain; serving our senior population here in New Milford; working with our local government leaders. I’ve gotten to know a number of professional hockey players and officials that can be classified as a good thing. I’ve probably become the only Nashville Predators’ fan in the State of New Jersey. And yes, I’ve gotten tired of flying to Nashville, a terrific city, to see hockey games.However, the difficult times take up more time.

Health-wise, I’ve battled a rare form of throat cancer and a major concussion, thankfully not at the same time. In a great effort never to get cancer again, I have become a vegan and shun every animal and oil-based edible product out there. I’m still battling steroid-induced weight gain, but I think this is finally coming under control. My throat is never going to be 100 percent and I still struggle to sing, but I reluctantly have had to stop chanting. Cancer costs have broken me, but at least I am still around to complain about it.

Family members have struggled with their health – my father, brother, and step-mother have all seen the inside of a hospital room, with my father and brother each seeing it multiple times. One of my cousins, after years of struggling with his health, died after falling out of bed and hitting his head. For just medical visits – to visit sick family and visits to NYC for cancer treatment – I’ve put thousands of miles of my car.

Professionally, I’ve seen ups and downs, stumbles and falls, all could be classified as normal. Personally, my social life is relatively stable.

Outside of St. Matthew’s pastoral care situations have come up in some odd ways, all of which have caused me worries and sleepless nights (the politicians who were going through some hard familial situations, the drunken teenagers who needed a smack, the married couples who needed a good round house, too, are but three examples). Late last year, I had the chance to minister to a young gay man who was dying from HIV. The one blessing is that this man was an unbeliever and by the grace of God and with the help of a brother clergyman in the city, this young man died in Christ.  Sitting at his bedside with this priest and this young man’s friends surrounding him, when he gave up his last breath, one of the women with the arm-filled sleeve of tattoos sang “Amazing Grace.”

Trying to help our local community following the two major flooding events that have occurred here in New Milford. Serving our district to help those devastated by Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy. Bringing food to families on Staten Island weeks after Sandy since electricity and gas had not been returned to their community.

There was that time I broke up a fight in an ICU at a local hospital. Oh, and there was that time at a local watering hole where I almost got into a fight when I defended a woman I didn’t know (why her husband didn’t stand up for her, I’ll never figure it out). Oh, and there also was time on St. Patrick’s Day, right outside of church, where I tried to break up a fight and got that concussion I mentioned above. Remembering walking down the front steps of the church and then waking up in the ER has always freaked me out. Finally, after a number of years, I paid off those hospital and doctor’s bills only to be hit with monumental cancer treatment bills.

I’ve tried to be a good pastor and a friend to brother clergymen who were struggling with sins of the flesh and worked hard to try and be a friend to those who need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes it is hard to be a pastor and a friend.

There was that time I was asked not to serve as a daily chaplain at a local hospital because I was not “caring” enough. And then three months later, that same hospital called asking me to forget what they said earlier and come back.

All my close friends I grew up with died during my ministry from illnesses and car accidents. After a friend died in a car accident on Super Bowl Sunday 2008, the year of the miracle New York Giants defeating the previously undefeated New England Patriots, I’ve never looked at that championship game the same way. 

I still don’t sleep well enough.

I don’t think I’ve ever taken my Monday off as a complete day off — today being no exception.

We’ve had some struggles here at St. Matthew’s, but we’ve come through all of them with smiles on our faces and praises of joy for our Lord. We will face more in the future, but with the Lord on our side, nothing can keep us down.

But what I am shooting for  during the next 8 years in the ministry?

Some boredom.


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