Wednesday, January 13, 2016

ICS Alum Michael Kelly to be Profiled on CBC Radio’s Tapestry

by Michael Kelly

On a Sunday afternoon in October, 2015, I was going about my typical Sunday afternoon, getting chores done and getting ready for the work week, and I was listening to the CBC Radio program Tapestry. I was fascinated by the subject of that day’s program, Howard Axelrod, who had suffered an injury which seriously affected his vision. This event led Mr. Axelrod to spend more than a year living in solitude, in an isolated cabin in the woods. I’ve long wished to do something like that (though perhaps for not quite as long!), so I listened with great interest to his story and how that time in solitude transformed him.

To the best of my recollection, Mr. Axelrod had been headed in a certain career direction, but the injury and subsequent period of isolation caused him to re-evaluate everything about himself and to alter the trajectory of his life and career.

After hearing this, I had to chuckle to myself because Mr. Axelrod’s story follows a familiar pattern, which typically goes like this: a person pursues a specific career path, finds success, and then at some point (usually the proverbial “mid-life” point) they experience an epiphany and decide to give up their successful business career in order to head into pastoral ministry, or something of the sort. I chuckled, because I, too, identify with that kind of mid-life change, and the gratification that such a change brings to life.

However, the particulars of my story are very much the opposite of the usual tale. You see, I started my working life as a pastor, and continued on this path for 17 years. But even early on, I realized that I was on a trajectory that I did not want to be on. Like Mr. Axelrod described in the radio interview, I did not like where I was, nor the facade I had to portray, but the positive reinforcement from parishioners, and their appreciation of my work kept me in a life I did not want.

After working as a pastor for a few years, I recognized something was amiss, not only with my choice of vocation, but also with the very narrow theological tradition to which I had committed myself. So I decided to spend some time studying at the ICS, beginning in the fall of 1997. I was at once overwhelmed and excited by my studies, and with the people I met. My time at ICS opened up an entirely new way of apprehending my own faith and my place in the world, and I began to see that I needed to find an authentic way to become an “agent of redemption” without limiting myself to being a pastor.

Alas, life events (and positive feedback) kept me in that vocation for a while longer. But eventually, after years of unhappiness and relatively poor remuneration, I finally reached a point when I decided that enough was enough, and I left ministry for a career in sales. I very quickly realized success, not only financially, but never before have I experienced such professional and personal gratification. My career in business fulfills me in a way that my work as a pastor never did, as ironic as that may sound. I am always thinking about my job, I talk animatedly about my job (something I never did before), I innovate, I help to train new recruits, and I am constantly seeking to become better at all that I do. In truth, I left ministry… to find my true calling.

So, I wrote a letter to the Tapestry program, thinking they might read my letter on air. Instead, they were very intrigued and wanted to interview me, so I obliged!

Editor’s note: Michael Kelly’s interview on Tapestry will air on Sunday, January 17, between 2-3 PM, and can be streamed from the program’s web site thereafter.

Michael Kelly is in the fifth year of his sales career, and now also works in sales management

Cabin image used under creative commons, used from Wikipedia.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing change in life. To find a true calling outside the ministry! How inspiring!