It's the full moon. I slept about 12 hours last night and then had a beautiful, sunny day (er, what was left of it) with my son. Now I can't stop talking.
I went for one day of our 3-day regional denominational clergy retreat yesterday. It was good to make a few connections and get out into the sort-of wilderness for a day. The keynote speaker was Steve Lucas who was personable and smart and had some practical, real ideas about ministry.
Among them, the big stuff - like that the progressive church needs to be that famous "non-anxious presence" not just to each other but to the world - by being clear about who we are without fearfulness, we can make prophetic change. About change, he said most people will hire a pastor saying they want growth, but they want that to happen without change. He said that in seminary we learn alot about the church as we'd like it to be, most people in congregations want the church they had and pastors are stuck in the middle with the church as it is.
Sometimes if Jeff has to work on the weekends, or when someone asks him a question about a computer at a party, I say to myself: "see, everyone wears their job - ministry is not special" but Lucas reminded me of the ways that ministry IS unique, and therefore requires a hightened level of caution and self-care. For example, we are unique in the way that the minister has a role in the church no one else does (he encouraged us to see ourselves as diplomats - just visting a foreign country for awhile).
I left unsettled about a couple of things, too. He is obviously politically liberal, and he even said that is "ministerial malpractice" not to preach against things the current adminstration is doing that are "against the gospel." To which I want to go "right on, brother!" But his language was full of militaristic, violent metaphors. He talked about congregants "shooting you full of arrows," and "they want to kill you," and he told a story about a walking point with a battalion. Anyway, I asked him privately afterward (because I couldnt quite muster up the courage in the big group) why he talked that way, if he really wanted to be a model of prophetic change in the culture. I think I imagined (because of his accent, I bet, in a surprising little awareness of my own internalized regionalism) that he is kind of a good ol boy who just didn't know what he was doing. But he said he does that intentionally, and even against his internal preference, in order to be shocking and to remind us of the seriousness of what he is talking about. I know for sure I wouldn't choose that method myself. Don't we need to be about creating a new metaphor? One that is about shalom and grace and goodness? Is it too woo-woo to believe that we create the reality we live in out of the words we use?
Steve also advised that you make it clear right up front that you are NOT the employee of the congregation - you are ordained to the church of Christ. You are a shepherd. Use language like "I will minister WITH you....." As a man, this makes him seem smart and spiritual - a real leader. And I'm sure he is those things. As a woman, I have to wonder how it fly if I came in with both barrels blazing (metaphor intentional!) saying "I am not your employee, so dont try to boss me around" I'm thinking it'd come off as power hungry, as bitchy or as uncooperative - none of which, as a woman, I'm supposed to be. Again, I found myself wondering, what's the metaphor for me, here?
Speaking of women and violent metaphors, if you haven't been around Rachelle's place and checked out the fall-out from her Intl Women's Day blog, it might be worth it. Especially if you are living under the impression that the church is really full of very nice people who are living a gospel of love.
Speaking of above, I'm just so fed up with this kind of unneccesary hatefulness.
Please say a prayer, if you think of it, for my new little nephew Jackson - in the hospital at less than two weeks old with RSV. He's getting better fast, but must be a hard time for him and his folks.
This is all sort of serious. I guess some days are like that. I'll try to be funnier tomorrow.