Today I was honoured to chair the Clericus Meeting for the Deanery if London. Ours is a large Deanery, with a total of 47 clergy on the roster. Looking around the table today at the 30+ clergy who came to our meeting, I was deeply aware of the wealth of experience, love, compassion, and pastoral care that lived around that table.
After our meeting today, I reflected on how fortunate we are to have each other to journey with in ministry. We do not always realize this. As clergy, we can often feel that we must know all the answers, find all the solutions, fix all the problems, build the church, and make sure that everybody is as happy as they can be at all times. When things go really well, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have played one small part of allowing God’s love and God’s purpose to unfold. When things click, and plans go well, I personally am always excited to see what God can do, and feel very good about being a small part of it. That always feels really good! But when things don’t always go as we would like them to, it does not feel very good. Any of us who have ministered for any amount of time know the moments I am thinking of; when attendance dwindles, when parishioners are displeased, when the latest parish program doesn’t take off the way we would like it too, when the budget suffers, when we’ve not been as present to someone as we feel we could have been, (insert the next twenty items here – this list can vary in length). It is at those times that I count myself lucky to be able to look around the table at which I sat today, and give thanks to God for my colleagues.
We recently went through a restructuring here in the city of London, Ontario. This deanery is new, and we are still getting to know one another. I have the sense that what we have before us is a tremendous opportunity and God has yet to show us how very much we may accomplish with the leading of the Spirit. I am also keenly aware that we have a room full of experiences. We have a table surrounded by joy and weeping, celebration and pain, excitement and regret. We are leaders in the church. We can celebrate one another’s high’s and we can enter into another’s lows. The diversity of theology, pastoral and life experience, and ecclesiology around our table will allow us to plumb the depths of how God is present in the midst of even our lowest moments. After all, as clergy, we are not immune to the poverty of pain.
I like the way Henri Nouwen puts it:
As leaders we can enter into one another’s poverty. There is a tendency to think about poverty, suffering, and pain as realities that happen primarily or even exclusively at the bottom of our Church. We seldom think of our leaders as poor. Still, there is great poverty, deep loneliness, painful isolation, real depression, and much emotional suffering at the top of our Church.
We need the courage to acknowledge the suffering of the leaders of our Church – its ministers, priests, bishops, and popes – and include them in this fellowship of the weak. When we are not distracted by the power, wealth, and success of those who offer leadership, we will soon discover their powerlessness, poverty, and failures and feel free to reach out to them with the same compassion we want to give to those at the bottom. In God’s eyes there is no distance between bottom and top. There shouldn’t be in our eyes either.
In ministry, we have many, many, more days in celebration of the abundance of God’s grace and the the joy in leading in God’s church than we do days of poverty and pain. I give thanks for the gift of this new Deanery of London and the depth of experience of the clergy within it. Chances are that whatever joy or whatever sorrow I feel this week, I can rest assured that around our Clericus table, there is a colleague who has been there before. It’s a great place to celebrate one another’s triumphs and bear each other up in the midst of our poverty…it’s a place of advice, compassion, support, and guidance. Most of all …. It is a place of grace.
Hello Rev’d Kevin:
A good reminder that in many endeavors and challenges we need not be alone if we are in a position to reach out.
Also from Henri Nouwan
“…a gesture of rejection, or an act of impatience can be remembered for life by those to whom it is directed.
There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life, for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for restoration and healing,” Perhaps, the best way to achieve this for all, (those above and those below), is compassion.
None of us likes to think or feel that we are under appreciated for the work we have taken on..God’s official work or the unofficial…that with which many of the rest of us are involved. The hard truth is that we sometimes are, but that does not stop us from pursuing what we love and what we feel is God’s will. Jesus never promised that it would be easy or that we would not become discouraged, or even run away and hide, like Jonah. Who can say just what causes us to come to a screaming halt sometimes. Maybe pride? Maybe wrong place, wrong time? Maybe not wanting to let go and allow others? Maybe fearful? Many things are/at/could/, be at play. It is difficult not to take it personally. Maybe it is just not God’s will.
What we do have going for us is a God who does not want us to fail and a God who loves us more then anyone can imagine…even before we were born.
Keeping all in mind….we have each other..we can and do shore each other up…clergy and laity. Let’s remember, and try to make use of the resources we have been given.
Praise The Lord and pass the ammunition….not the guns and bullets of old…a new weapon…love.