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medical insurance for a self-employed webminister

As I've mentioned a couple of times, my parish staff position is being eliminated. It's a real bear of a time of year to be on the job market; seminarians are graduating around the country, and there are a slew of incentives of both the "carrot" variety and the "stick" sort to encourage parishes to hire graduating seminarians. I'm looking at this, though, as a potential nudge from the Holy Spirit to consider different kinds of ministry, including consulting and providing services through this website.

I have another wacky dream too. I'd like to build Christian community closer to home. I've spent over two years commuting 60 miles each way to parish work, and the parish at which my partner and I are members is also 60 miles away. I'd like to be able to hang out and pray with Christians (and Christians who take for granted my belonging in the Body of Christ, which unfortunately isn't the case for churches in town) without having to drive quite so far. Now that I'm not going to have to spend so much time in my car, I could actually make that happen. Here are my ideas to get started:

  • Call on all of the people I've met around here who want a spiritual home in a Christian community, but who feel alienated by the conservative tendencies they perceive in churches in town.
  • Start up some book groups around town (meeting at places like Border's Books and the coffee house down the street from my house) on works like Thich Nhat Hanh's Going Home: Jesus and the Buddha as Brothers and Charles Marsh's God's Long Summer, on the role of faith in the civil rights movement.
  • Do in Frederick (where I live) something I've done for the parish where I work, namely "Theology Happy Hour: What Would Jesus Drink?" That's where (after clearing it with the management, of course) I go to a local pub, order a plate of appetizers, put up a little sign on the table announcing what the gathering is, and put out some pads of paper, pens, and a hat or bag. People who are interested in joining the conversation can write down any question or topic they'd like to discuss and drop it in the hat/bag. After a while of hanging out and collecting topics, we start drawing things out of the hat/bag one by one, and anyone who wants to chime in on the topic or question can, with me just serving as facilitator rather than as authoritative teacher. When conversation seems to be wrapping up on one topic or question, we draw out the next. Lather. Rinse Repeat for as long as seems fun.
  • And eventually, if I can get use of one of those currently vacant buildings around here (I've got my eye on one), open a community center where peace and justice groups or groups serving underserved populations around here (e.g., people whose primary language is Spanish) can have free meeting space, and maybe a shared office (a computer with multiple user accounts and a telephone). I think that would be a great way to make connections and build community with people who aren't feeling well served by churches in the area.

Here's the big catch:

Medical insurance.

I think that with a combination of consulting/retreat leading/guest preaching, website income (thanks to the generous folks who support this site), and the income from my (generous and wonderful!) partner, we might be able to make ends meet. But then there's medical insurance. For a while, I could do COBRA if I could afford it (I have to find out how much that is, but I'm imagining that it's pretty expensive), but I'm not sure what other options there are. I don't have access to insurance through my partner's job (she works for a Roman Catholic college, so that isn't going to change, either). My diocese can't put me on their policy if I'm not officially an employee. There are insurance options for self-employed people, but at the very least I could use some help with finding a good one, and in any case paying for it will be a challenge.

Anyone have any ideas?

June 10, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Damn, I don't know. This is such a huge issue for so many people. I'm longing for the day when this won't be an issue. Healthcare reform is my number 1 political issue.

You could work at Starbucks part-time for the benefits and do the other stuff the rest of the time. It's hardly ideal, but it might be your best bet.

Posted by: Abby Vigneron | Jun 13, 2005 10:52:16 PM

In Georgia, school bus drivers have the option to be paid with medical insurance in lieu of the meager wages they would draw. I know several ministers here that drive school buses for the insurance benefits.

I am a bi-vocational minister. The church where I am the pastor does not have enough membership and income to support a full time minister. I work a secular job Monday through Friday during the day and do my pastoring in the evenings and on weekends.

My prayers are with you. I have hope that with your talent and imagination God will lead you toward a resolution of your dilema.

Joel

Posted by: Joel Heaton | Jun 24, 2005 6:41:29 AM

Please use this email address to reach me. I inadvertently gave my work email the first time.

Thank you

Joel

Posted by: Joel Heaton | Jun 24, 2005 6:45:04 AM

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