Monday, August 12, 2013

11 Things You Might Not Understand about your Minister.

A very interesting blog here from a former minister. It is reposted on an Orthodox blog, but from the language and parlance of the article, I am assuming it is Protestant in origin. The author makes some interesting points. Some of the points are right on the money.

I do disagree with the Mama's Boy comment. I don't understand that. Most ministers I know with whom I am close friends are actually pretty close to their fathers, with a few exceptions. Most ineffectual ministers I know are, in fact, mama's boys or girls. I may blog about this again in the future. I have been doing some reading on this very topic of late.

The "spiritually starving" comment struck close to home. I very much had to be careful not to get burned about about things spiritual. Ministers and priests are excellent at isolating themselves from other ministers or spiritual directors because there are always other things to do that need to be done. My first 4 or so years in ministry, I said mass or did morning or evening prayer every day. Then, I found it was easy to make excuses for not doing liturgical worship every day. And then, frankly, my bishop told me not to say daily mass every day unless I had at least a server and someone on the congregation. That was largely the kiss of death. I only said mass or said daily prayer when people showed up. In a congregation that had zero interest in daily worship, that basically meant I seldom did it.

The comment on irrelevance was also one that hit home for me, though I think in a different way than the author intended. I hear "relevance" in this context and immediately have a gag reflex because that is a sacred cow to liberal protestants, i.e. "the Church must change or die!" school of thought. I do not know if the original author had that definition in mind or not, but that's what came to my mind when I read that bit.

On the flip side of that, however, for those from blue collar backgrounds who have definable productivity engraved on your hourly wage earner minds, parish ministry is a killer. So many times at the end of the day, I was frustrated because I had no way of gauging my productivity as a priest. I talked to two people about issues and said morning prayer and fixed the leaky whatever on the church and helped with whatever church program, but I could not tell you usually if any of that had been productive. Had I really made a difference, or was I a clerical Sisyphus, pushing ministerial rocks up mountains? We try to have faith that somehow God was working through us, but we seldom really knew.

The "trust" issue is another one of those things in the article that I think I had a different take on that the author. Part of being a priest is being a spiritual father to the parish. I never felt it was appropriate to lay on my spiritual children my own issues, whatever they may be. That was neither professional nor fair to the parishioner. That having been said, it is difficult, particularly in rural areas, for ministers to find other outlets to have normal conversations with peers. Ministerial associations and civic groups were crucial for me to have friendships with non parishioners.

Well, it is time for work. I will return to this in the future.




Anonymous said...

The blog text is really interesting, but If you have a sacramental and sacerdotal view of priesthood, i.e. the minister is not just a spiritual leader but a priest, some of the concerns tend to be less acute. For example, by feeding people with the Body of Christ and offering the sacrament of penance to them a priest conveys actual graces, so there is much less doubt as to the fruitfulness of his ministry. Moreover, even saying mass though nobody else attends makes perfect sense once it is viewed as holy sacrifice which may bring spiritual benefits to others.
But apart from that, some points, especially about a risk of activism at the expense of spiritual life remain valid. I also generally subscribe to your view of a priest as the father rather than a ‘fellow parishioner’ and consequently the key role of the community/fellowship of priests, though I believe that it helps to have a family or two whom you trust in a parish. I can only speak as a layman (of highly clerical views), but it seems to me that sometimes small formation groups, once mutual trust is built (which often takes several years), can both ‘boost’ a priest spiritually (as he can always refer to the fact that there are at least some parishioners who try hard to live up to their faith and will not sleep during mass) and offer him a chance to share at least some of his concerns (naturally without crossing some limits).
JRM from Central Europe

The Archer of the Forest said...

That's one of the reasons I don't think I could be Protestant. Most Protestant ministers unless they become some sort of small church dictator, are more or less moral and spiritual cheerleaders. Their ministry rises or falls on how well they can motivate people from the, pulpit, etc. This manifests itself in weird ways like pastors trying to be cool and hip or whatever. Your pastor should not be your drinking buddy or whatever.

I know; I'm old school.