Showing posts with label clergy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clergy. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Morning Church Rant

I didn't go to church today because I couldn't face another stripped-down summer liturgy. Bleh.  Recycled sermons, vacationing preachers, substitute organists, empty pews, last moment lectors, absent acolytes, no choir, no coffee hour. The church on vacation isn't pretty. 

But that's not our only problem. We have a problem of relevance. We are trying WAY too hard to find it. When church leaders chase the latest opinion polls, and change their main Sunday liturgies to meet the "market," those who have been shaped by the liturgical traditions of the past are left to embrace the change or leave. What seems to have been left out of the rush to seek the seeker is that the Church was never more embracing or growth-filled as when it was the keeper of mystery, ritual, prayer and sacrament and served the community. (1st - 3rd Century CE)

It will be a sad, sad day when a generation hence American mainline churches are empty (like Europe) and leadership wishes we had hewed to liturgical practice, embraced social justice, and welcomed the stranger and the familiar at the same time.

Am I really all alone in my grief at the demise of the weekly Lutheran and Episcopalian Sunday liturgy -- the ritual of action, listening, singing, silence, Word and Meal that has sustained me spiritually all my adult life?

Are there no clergy around me who think that the rush to reinvent the church by changing worship is getting at the problem from the wrong end? Is technology in the sanctuary really All That?

You'd think with all the gutting of worship tradition that all following Jesus ever meant was showing up for church, and that Church meant getting people in the doors on Sunday morning. I always thought living the faith was what I did with my life the rest of the time, out in the world. Worship was what pulled me back into the tradition of the mothers and fathers, helped me remember, fed me at the Table, grounded me in the mystery.

I'm sad the scramble for growth, money, resources, and relevance has meant the suburban churches in my area are always riding the wave of the Next Big Thing. I've been around long enough to know that there is always a next big thing.

The rush to relevance has left me cold. It's exhausting (no wonder the church heaves a huge sigh during the summer). Think I'll go read Morning Prayer (BCP, p. 75) and have my own church today.

Signed,

Wish You Were Here. 



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Happy 29th Ordination Anniversary

29 years ago I was ordained a pastor in the LCA, now part of the ELCA. Today, my former synod is meeting in assembly in my last congregation, 3 miles from where I sit.

I'm not there because a few months ago my denomination took me off the roles as a pastor because I no longer serve in a ministry position. It was a process, and it took years, but I'm out.

Do I miss it? Yes. And No.

I think it's a terrible mistake to take experienced and quality clergy off the roles of the church simply because their call took them out of the parish and into different ministry. I do think of my work as a therapist as holy work. Even better than my work as a pastor. But in our denomination, ordination is to Word and Sacrament, and once I left the parish, I was more a word, healing and service person. I wasn't preaching weekly, or celebrating baptism or Holy Communion regularly. My work is in the world, not the church. So I am out. So I miss that role, some of that work, that chance to lead in my own way in the ELCA.

And No. The life of a pastor, the way church employment works, the daily politics of the job, and the distressing and disrespectful last years of my life as a pastor were soul-killing. The only way to save my life was to leave. Had I been allowed to take my first and only sabbatical in 20 years, I probably would have had room and grace to re-organize myself as a pastor in a changing church. But my proposal was rejected by the power that was immediately over me, adding to his pressure on me to leave the position. So I did. Making that power quite happy, and me relieved to have a new chance at being the vocational leader I wanted to be.

So Yes and No. And happy ordination anniversary to me. It's an important day for me, and means little to anyone else now except my family. I saved my life, and left the clergy system. Good luck to everyone who stays in. 




Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Church in Recession : What Now?

My occasional column for the Savage Pacer was just published yesterday. I wrote about the financial free fall the mainline denominations are in with the current recession. If you want to read the full column, go here.

Here's my concluding paragraph:
The storm that my denomination finds itself in will one day blow through, and a different way of being the church in the world will have to be found and lived. In every generation, it has never been the largest, the wealthiest or the most powerful church that makes a difference in the world. It has always been the individual person of faith, who joins with others with that same hope and vision, to feed the hungry, protect the innocent, lift up the fallen, and proclaim God’s vision of peace. It’s the lives of the faithful that proclaim the truth of the Gospel, not their buildings, or budgets, or institutions. And that reality is what holds me, and I hope, holds you, in the midst of our current religious storms. 

I believe what I wrote; that size and prestige don't make a church. But money does matter, in all things that a church wants to do. While I am curious about how this is all going to shake out, I have to tell you, I am very worried for every pastor and career church worker I know. The stress on them in these many months of recession is enormous, and everyone on their leadership board is looking to them for answers. There aren't any right now, except to hold on, keep doing what is done best, and press toward a different future.

I can't stress enough the need for every pastor and staff member to mind their own mental health right now. What once was standard procedure is up for grabs. What once was a 'steady as she goes' ship is one that is seriously imperiled by its own failures and the hurricane of economic shrinkage, and is taking on water. I pray that those leaders care for themselves, for they are those to whom we look for leadership and courage in difficult times.

I was finishing seminary and waiting for my first call during our last major recession. I am glad to not be doing the same again now. Pray for those leaders and students preparing to serve, their loved ones and families. It's going to be a very bumpy ride.