Vocation and the Common Good is a multi-year research project describing the possibilities for Christian faithfulness within nine spheres of modern work. The Vocation and the Common Good Podcast is one way of distributing the findings of the project. Through conversation with selected members of the project, we intend to highlight the role institutions, friends, family, and colleagues have played in sustaining people within their ongoing attempts to be faithful to the call of God upon their lives.
Today’s conversation is with Dr. Maurice Wallace, Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia and Associate Director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies.
Our interview begins with Maurice’s account of what it has meant to have “one vocation and two jobs.” Until recently, Maurice has pastored a local congregation outside of Durham, North Carolina while also teaching students and doing academic work. Maurice began pastoring during his graduate studies at Duke and continued his pastorate during his first academic job at Yale and after a move to the University of Virginia.
Maurice’s description of his vocation speaks with a kind of immediacy that is all-too-often lacking within the cottage industries that have been formed to discuss pastoral ministry, Christian formation, and the task of preaching. Though his academic work is given largely to theory, Maurice describes the ideal preached word and, by extension, pastoral ministry itself as visceral – a kind of direct, unmediated encounter with the Spirit of God.
As the conversation unfolds, we discuss the affinity the pastor shares with the artist, who brings change within the world precisely because he or she retains some critical distance from day-to-day experiences without fully detaching from those experiences. Maurice believes pastoral ministry should unfold similarly. This leads us to discuss the work of James Baldwin as one exemplar of the kind of life lived within this tension between everyday experience and the call that seems to emerge from another world.
In Maurice’s view, the demands placed upon pastors by most congregations make the possibilities of true bi-vocational ministry increasingly rare. And yet, this interview with Maurice shows how a life lived between “church” and “academy” can be a faithful response to the call of God.