Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Maggi Dawn on the role of the minister

Maggi Dawn has posted a heartfelt piece about the difficulty of ministry and it rang very true for me today.
There is something insidious and terrible about ministry, regardless of whether or not you do it as a paid occupation. There is this thing that happens, once you get the reputation for being good at it. People all over start to depend uopn you for far more than you're able to give, and you can (if you're not careful and don't surround yourself with people who will tell you loud and clear that you're losing the thread) start to believe that what they need is you. Sometimes I even wonder if this is what killed Jesus in the end. At least I think it's what makes sense of his habit of walking away, disappearing up mountains or down to the sea.

Maggi ends her post with a poem by Mary Oliver and in the comments Erin says "Eugene Peterson writes that the two temptations of clergy are to be managers or messiahs."

At the end of another busy day as I muse on what it is I really want from life I give thanks for powerful, honest voices out there who are talking about how difficult it is to minister. It is probably just as well that I didn't yet blog while I was on the ERF's ministries commission. When I think about about the extraordinary people and yet often very painful local situations I visited in those nine years. I also think about the difficult task of managing people in any situation. The word "alchemy" comes to mind - somehow the most unlikely combinations of people work; sometimes people and situations who look made for each other turn sour quickly. The clergy move on - they have no choice but to do that if a parish no longer welcomes them. They live out in the impermanence of their own lives our Christian inability to live together. It sometimes takes local churches a very long time to learn from such experiences. Bonhoeffer still has much to teach us in the church and in society abaout "living together", or perhaps it is rather that we all have much to listen and learn about on that front.