On Being Professional Clergy
People have funny reactions to the fact that I am a pastor. Of course, there are the ever-present comments assuming that I can take care of the rain (or lack thereof) for whatever is coming up. I get that is said with a twinkle in the eye and a wink-wink, nudge nudge attitude. But it betrays an underlying assumption that somehow I’m closer to God or have a special “in” with “the big guy.” Do I even need to say that this is not how it works?
Once, while serving a parish where I lived in a rectory adjacent to the church, I was out raking leaves and one of the members came by with a puzzled assuming that someone else took care of that sort of thing. Just like anyone else, if I don’t want to pay someone to rake my yard, then I’m rakin’.
Sadly, on rare occasions I’ve encountered the other end of the spectrum, people who assume that I’m just a hypocrite, charlatan or even a pedophile. Fortunately, those have been few in my experience.
When I went to seminary, I learned about preaching, teaching and leading worship. I studied Bible, theology, church history, liturgy, etc. Church leadership was hardly touched, budgets, vestries, and even pastoral care, got very light treatment, if even mentioned. And there was nothing about how to handle the wildly varying expectations people have of clergy.
So, I, like my brother and sister clergy, have had to make my own way and figure it out as I go along. I hope I’ve at least gotten some pieces right, even though I’m sure I am not where I should be. Yet, I know that by grace and mercy, God still works through me, just as He works through each of you.
The reason all this has come to mind is that two of Sunday’s lessons are particularly challenging for those of us in the ranks of the professional clergy (links to the lessons are below). In the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of how he never accepted money from them as he evangelized them as a show of his integrity. In the lesson from Matthew, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, the clergy of the day, and encourages His followers to do as they say but not as they do.
On Sunday, I will reflect more on what this says not only about my role as a professional pastor, but on your far more critical role as Christians on mission in your own circles.
Fr. Eric Turner
This column first appeared in the November 5, 2017 issue of St. John’s Weekly eNews. Click here to read the full issue.
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