Friday, July 26, 2013

Fear and leading in the country

So the pastor had her first administrative council meeting with one of the churches on Sunday.  I was not able to attend due to childcare responsibilities, and frankly, I am just fine with that.  I am not one who enjoys meetings, but having said that, I'm not sure who really does.  I suppose there are some people from different parts of the Myers-Briggs spectrum who really get a charge out of such things, though.  In one of her previous appointments, now that I think about it, there were some people who seemed to get a perverse joy out of conflicts and arguments, and no issue was too insignificant for a battle to be waged.  That's not the case here.

I have written before about the innate dysfunction of churches, much like the dysfunction of most families. We are human, so we do not relate perfectly to one another.  With the folks at this appointment, there is some division at the moment, but it does not seem insurmountable.  It's more related to the change in pastoral leadership, which is understandable.  For many of these people, they've know each other and worshiped with each other for decades - their whole lives spent together.  Often in a rural area, but it can happen in the middle of a big city too, a certain provincialism takes hold and folks can't see past their own little worlds.  In that situation, small disagreements get magnified and stretched out of proportion.

So what do you do when you are trying to lead people through something that seems insignificant to you, but makes the people you're attempting to lead shake with anger and fear?  I am not sure I know, but I do know some things that you shouldn't do.  For one thing, the anger/fear can't be allowed to drive decisions.  If the leader decides to act or not act based solely on wanting to avoid conflict or hurt feelings, she is letting fear do the leading.

Throughout this ministry adventure, we have tried to make pleasing God our number one goal.  Sometimes we fall short, but we've tried to maintain focus on that goal regardless.  I am hopeful that we can make that the goal of the two churches she is serving.  Based on feedback from many parishioners, there is much reason for optimism about that.  I know it's early in our time with them, but I feel quite optimistic about the possibilities here - "Aslan is on the move."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Finding a balance - privacy/honesty

This morning, I thought I'd share some pictures with the few people who may be reading this blog.  Then I wondered about how much I should share.  I'm not sure how "out there" I want to be.  It makes me wonder why I'm blogging in the first place.  How much do I want to share?  Clearly, I want to share at some level or I'd just be writing a journal instead of a blog.  When I started this meager attempt a few years ago, the hope was that other pastors' husbands would want to communicate/commiserate about our unusual place in the Church.  That hasn't happened, but it's no big deal.

Still, I am not sure how much to share.  I want to be honest about the joys and struggles of our life in parish ministry, but I don't want to share too much.  Inevitably, I'll end up sharing something about parishioners that touches on confidentiality in some way.  I don't want to embarrass anyone, even if the embarrassment comes from their bad behavior.  And I don't want to share the details of anyone's life without their permission.  So if our parishioners start reading the blog, things could get awkward.  I want to be as honest as possible about what's going on in our lives, so being anonymous is a tremendous help.  I have probably left enough clues that a determined person could easily figure out who and where we are, and I'm accepting the fact that there is no real privacy online.

With that said, here are some pictures.  For now, I'm leaving out pictures of the church signs that say, "Welcome Pastor ", but I hate that, because I find it kind and sincere.  I will try to take some pictures of the countryside this weekend.  It's a beautiful area.

Monday, July 8, 2013

First Impressions

I finally made it to these two little churches yesterday.  Last week was the pastor's first Sunday, but our youngest spent the night before throwing up, so I stayed home with him and his big brother while our daughter tagged along with the preacher.  We think it was something he ate, because no one else got sick, thankfully.  I had to take the oldest boy off to summer camp that afternoon anyway - a three hour one-way drive.  It made for a long day, and I was kind of relieved to miss the fanfare of being the pastor's family on parade.  Not that I really mind it - it's part of the gig.

Anyhow, I did make it yesterday, and it was a great day.  I still felt like I was on display a bit, but that's ok.  The parishioners were exceedingly kind and friendly and didn't seem to mind the sweat rolling off my head during the passing of the peace on a warm and humid July morning in NC.  One interesting bit of logistics - these two churches are about 20-25 minutes apart.  The earlier service starts at 9:30, while the later one starts at 11:00.  That's a really small margin of error.  Fortunately, my wife has a foot of lead when necessary.  We pulled out of one parking lot at 10:36 and into the second one at 10:55.  The second church is the one with only about a dozen regulars.

My wife was not all that thrilled about her sermon for the day.  Last week's was better in my opinion, but for some reason, many folks complimented her on this week's.  I don't think they were trying to make her feel better, either.  Preaching/teaching is one of her greatest strengths, so even when it's not her best, I always think it's pretty good, and I'm not the only one who feels that way.  You just never know what people will respond to - it's fascinating, really.  Or frustrating, depending on your mood, I suppose.

After worship at the smaller church, we went back to the first one for a covered dish lunch.  They do that every week.   Wow.  Every week.  I will need to either ramp up my exercise or buy bigger clothes if I end up doing that every week.  We shall see.

Of course, we are now in a honeymoon period, which I am well aware could come to an abrupt end.  And it will sooner or later.  That's ok - it's part of the process.  With a new pastor comes new ways of looking at things and doing things.  The past will be honored for sure, but not worshiped.  Sometimes change is difficult, and we will have to move slowly.  Our pastor is not always patient about moving forward, but she is loving and kind and extremely, almost painfully, honest.  Hopefully, trust will build quickly.  For now, I am feeling good about a fresh start.