"A couple of years later I left that church for other reasons and ended up a member of the parish at the cathedral. And I was determined not to let the same thing happen.

"My experience is that if church folks find out you can teach a class or lead a retreat or have an idea at a meeting, then they will give you a fair number of chances to do exactly that. So I kept my head down.

"For a couple of years, I was tempted not to use my real name. I thought of it as being in the Layman's Protection Program.

"Eventually I started feeling guilty about not ever doing anything around the church, so I decided to talk to the dean of the cathedral. I had lunch once a month with the dean. It was not exactly a ministry on my part; he always bought, for one thing.

"One day we had lunch right around the time of the big parish fair, the annual event where the different ministries and groups in the parish try to get folks to sign up to participate.

"I told him I felt guilty about never doing anything much around the church. He listened as I told him my burnout story. I said I thought perhaps I was ready to do more.

"Then he told me the work I did outside the parish — writing books and leading retreats and speaking at conferences and all that makes up the work to which I have been called and to which I have been given — might well be the work I was to give to the parish, after all was said and done.

" 'There are more than two thousand of us in this parish, and we can find someone to take the kids on retreat and someone to coach the basketball team and someone to teach the Sunday school classes and someone to run the stewardship committee,' he told me. 'We cannot find someone to do what you do.'

"He looked me in the eye.

" 'Write your books, say your prayers, lead your retreats. And when you can, be here with us and bring whatever your work makes of you and park yourself in the pew next to the rest of us when we gather up to worship.' "