Monday, October 5, 2015

My purgatory. . .

Clergy meetings are normally my idea of purgatory.  Not all of them, mind you, but many of them.  They drag on and seem without purpose or goal.  We pray for them to end and expect to endure them longer than we think we should.

Perhaps one of my biggest complaints is that these meetings too often have a distinctly practical emphasis that is, in reality, not all that practical.  We are inundated with ideas on how to raise more money, how to fill the pews, how to increase the Sunday school attendance, and how to get with the times (usually something referring to technology).  I should suppose that it would not be all bad to increase offerings, to have more folks in the pews, to find more kids in Sunday school, or to use the many forms of technology and media more effectively.  But we too easily forget that the Church grows through the means of grace and not through programs that come and go.

I have been a pastor long enough to remember a host of acronyms for programs introduced at over hyped pastor meetings -- nearly all of which are now forgotten and probably rightfully so.  In that same amount of time I can recall fewer agendas in which the subject was given over to the eminently practical stuff of the leadership of the liturgy, the preaching of the faith, the teaching of those new to the faith or of youth, or the subject of prayer.  Whether they were directed to the pastor as an individual or to his role within the parish, the times when clergy have been gathered to be instructed in their basic duties or schooled in the skills related to those duties have been too few.

This is not always the case but it is more often the way clergy meetings are.  I will admit that even though I have been a pastor for 35 years, I need to continually be nourished in the liturgy, nurtured in presiding, challenged by and equipped for the preaching task, helped with the major task of teaching the faith to the faithful and those not yet of the faith, and my own personal piety as well as aiding the people with their piety and lives of good works and mercy works.

Pastors face the same struggles in the daily living out of the faith that our people do.  Wouldn't it be great if we were prepared by others to meet these challenges and struggles and this, in turn, helped us to equip those in our care to meet these challenges and struggles?  We spend a lot of money and we expend a great deal of precious time on clergy meetings.  It would help all of us if we made sure that these meetings were focused and faithfully directed to us and to the essential tasks and challenges of the faithful living out the faith.  Not really a rant here but a sigh.  I thought Lutherans did away with purgatory.  Perhaps we merely shifted the burden from laity to clergy.

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