Last night I had the privilege of attending the memorial service of Lucille Tobiassen, this wonderful member of my first church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, in San Francisco. She was one of the Pillars of the church and always spoke her mind. Such a wonderful person.
As I sat in the congregation for the first time in many years, I must admit it was a little strange. Without going too much into it, my ending there was rough for many involved, but best for my own spiritual, physical and mental health. I enjoyed reconnecting with some folks, seeing folks who still clearly hold some grudges and having the opportunity to reflect on the joys/trials of ordained ministry. The one thing I did not feel was any remorse about my decision to leave that ministry. I had basically left because I no longer felt any sense of joy in serving . . . that and the high blood pressure. I was not being fed in my role as pastor and was not really feeling like it was a place (for many reasons) that I could, with integrity, invite folks to attend. There simply was no more joy in serving and leading . . . in that context, and in the end, with that feeling . . . how could I really lead with any kind of effectiveness?
I compare the memories with this past with the hopes of the future . . .
This Sunday our church, MBCC, is having a special Bring-a-Buddy Sunday where we are, obviously, asking folks to invite friends and family to what we think is a pretty quirky, but relevant and authentic church community. While I have tried to do my part in the inviting of new folks, I have been caught in this weird place of knowing that it is more effective for members (The satisfied customer, if you will.) to invite folks than the pastor, after all, it is my job to invite folks . . . my livelihood depends on it. But . . . I LOVE this church, miss it when I am not there, love that my kids love it and am pretty sure this is the kind of church I would attend anyway.
Such a dilema when the pastor enjoys the church so much that he/she wants to invite folks to it 😉
I LOVE this feeling . . . now in no way do we think we are perfect, have all the "answers" or don’t struggle with the same congregational issues as other churches. What has hit me over the last few months, however, as I have talked with some colleagues is that many of them don’t have the same sense of joy about the places they serve. If you are not fed as the pastor, how in the heck do you think anyone that is being served will be? This may be naive, overly optimistic, even slightly arrogant (wouldn’t be the first time) but after 10+ years of ordained ministry, I believe this is the only way clergy and our congregations will survive, if all involved have a sense of joy, hope and in the end experience transformation.
As clergy, it is far far far far too easy to sit around, whine, complain, moan, martyrize, etc. Yes, church work is hard, people can be mean, institutions suck, we are not always "on" yada yada yada . . . But when we contiuously fall into and have our mail forwarded to this place of joyLESSness in the midst appropriate work/sacrifices/struggles I believe we shirk our responsibility and privilege to help create/sustain ministry that can lead to transformation for all.
I use the word JOY as I talk about ministry because I think that is
were we all strive to be, not to simply be happy and content, but to reside
in the joy-filled place that serving God can create and sustain. Joy
allows me to endure and press on in the midst of struggle, to take the
arrows for the greater good AND to revel in the transforamtion that can
happen in a place where transformation is encrouraged, allowed and
celebrated . . . both for the pastor, the members and the congregation.
Okay, done ranting . . . now I want to invite you to my church!