The Rev. Shalom Agtarap packs up her stuff as she prepares
to begin her new appointment as associate pastor of Seattle: Blaine UMC.

Musings & Younger Perspectives:
To Abide in the Vine and Be Fruitful
By the Rev. Shalom Agtarap

“If I had just one more illustration,
that sermon would have knocked it out of the park.”

“If I had just finished that leadership book,
instead of only reading the first two chapters, we could have avoided this crisis.”

In my six years of ministry – I have never made these statements even though my propensity for gathering (maybe even hoarding) resources would be aligned with this kind of thinking.

An honest reflection on the times in ministry where I felt something lacking, or disappointed or frustrated, are usually times when I have not been present to who was around me and what was before us.

I, like many young professionals, get caught up in other things. I spend my time on “the stuff” – stuff that makes one think I might be found fruitful, IF:

-I’m the first one there and the last one to leave…
-I attend every event, in and outside the church…
-I take days off to model healthy ministry (but never live into them)…

Other professions use different terminology, but the end goal is the same: productivity.

John 15:4 (Common English Bible):
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.

The difficult thing about productivity within the life of Christ however is that it is only in abiding in the Vine, the Life-Giver, that we ever produce at all. A little gem called, “The Vinedresser’s Notebook”, has brought the basics to my remembrance:

“Whatever stage of life we are in, there are times when we question whether what we are doing is generative. Things just don’t feel fruitful in some relationship, in a job or social group, even in spiritual practices.”


During the week of Annual Conference I carried Wayne Muller’s book, “Sabbath”, around with me. I couldn’t find the attention span to actually read it, much less journal about it. But, I carried it with me. It became a talisman for me – that if I just held it, I’d somehow receive the benefit of its wisdom. Herein lies the problem: I can’t just know – I need to pause and pray, I need to actually do it. One cannot simply acknowledge there is a vine; one has to remain in it.

Last month, I along with other colleagues began new appointments. This is a time to begin anew, even for those who continued in the same placement; a time of great introspection and recommitment to grow where we have been planted.

So, let’s commit and recommit to remaining in Christ by playing, resting, reconnecting with friends and family this season. Let’s focus less on a productivity based on what energy we can give and pay more attention to where Christ is already at work in, through and around us.

The Rev. Shalom Agtarap is the associate pastor of Seattle: Blaine United Methodist Church.
This article will be featured in Channels 74, August 2014. To subscribe, e-mail

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