Search

The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

Tag

belonging

Asylum Quilts

IMG_2300 IMG_2294

Not too long after we finished the “Essentials” seminar at Ashland – which emphasizes that one of the components of healing is “community” – my wife and I had the opportunity for a little vacation to Columbus, Ohio.  Before we headed home we decided to make a stop at the Ohio Historical Center, just to look around.  I was completely dumbfounded by this exhibit of quilts done by residents at the Ohio Asylum for the Insane in Athens, Ohio in the mid-1900s.  These remarkable works of art and craftsmanship – done as part of the physical therapy program and then given to other residents – exhibit a beautiful mix of healing components that we as caregivers might well consider in our own ministries:

gathering into small groups (since it is well-known that it is difficult to quilt alone);

working on some project together keeps the hands (and maybe the left brain?) busy, leaving the right brain free to talk with others (and it’s also well-known that quilting in a group is not a silent activity!)

working on a project together might give participants a sense of working toward a visible, tangible goal

the idea that the quilt would be given to another resident might make the project and the effort seem all the more worthwhile, and result in a sense of accomplishment but also a greater sense of well-being among the recipients:  “We not only did something together, we did something good together for someone else!”

What other healing factors might you notice about a project like this?  Is there a way you could encourage this kind of project more often in your ministry?

 

 

 

Advertisements

At the Formational Prayer Essentials Seminar Part 2

If we resemble Jesus enough to allow the woman of ill repute to break the bottle of perfume at His feet (Luke 7:36-50), soon others like her will be lined up around the block, each bearing their own bottle of perfume to break as they cry their hearts out for gratitude at the mercy of Jesus we are showing them.

If we are instead like the Pharisees who are around Jesus trying to prevent the woman from approaching Him and breaking the bottle, others who may have brought their own bottles to break will learn that they will be shamed if they do so.  They will keep those bottles hidden and, perhaps, stop coming altogether.

If we receive the broken and the breakers, the wounded and the wounders into the church with the mercy of Jesus, soon word will get out and others will come bearing their own sins and wounds and brokenness, knowing that here is a place where they can receive healing and forgiveness.

If we insist on public shaming of the broken and the breakers, public condemnation of church leaders who “fall” or “fail,” soon word will get out and others who have their own sins and wounds and brokenness will learn to keep their sins and wounds and brokenness to themselves.  The church will not be a safe place for them to be, and eventually, perhaps, they will stop coming altogether.

Retirement? Really?

I’m a member of a group of Lutheran pastors that meets regularly to discuss all kinds of ministry-related issues.  This morning as we were discussing “bullying in the church” we were on a side note along the question of when manipulation becomes bullying.  The subject of pastors’ behavior in retirement came up  (three of us are retired, three of us are active).

 

(Note to my non-Lutheran readers:  in our denomination, pastors are not “assigned” to congregations after their first assignment out of the seminary.  We have a “call” system and for the most part it is the decision of the pastor and – presumably – the Holy Spirit as to when and under what circumstances he leaves that call and that congregation.)

 

So one of the scenarios that we have observed in our system is that it is possible for a pastor of long tenure in a congregation to retire from the office of the pastor of that congregation yet not leave the geographic area.  Often the congregation grants him the title of “Pastor Emeritus” to honor his tenure and ministry among them.  But what is his role there after he retires?

 

Some pastors make it a practice to disappear from the congregation for as much as a year – worshiping elsewhere, taking no funerals or weddings, being out of communication almost entirely with the congregation for such a long time.  This is hard to contemplate perhaps, but it has the effect of saying to everyone “This era is at an end.  Everyone (congregation and retired pastor and incoming pastor) now needs to deal with it and move on well.”

 

Some other pastors stay in the area and participate in congregational life, but as a layman.  This is harder to do – to turn down requests for wedding or funerals for people you’ve served in love for years, but it has a similar effect as above.  It’s also hard because the people you’ve served and loved for years keep calling you “pastor” and coming up to you for advice or complaints.  Sometimes it’s just easier to take up membership in a nearby congregation (we have one man who has done this in my church, where he serves as a trusted and gentle Elder) where everyone knows he is a retired pastor but he has never been our pastor.

 

The problems arise when the retiring pastor tries to manipulate congregational life after his ministry ends.  Some pastors do that by staying around and listening to the complaints and concerns of people rather than setting boundaries and directing them to the interim/vacancy or succeeding pastor.  Some pastors try to manipulate the future with elaborate plans and schedules involving the date of their retirement relative to the date of the installation of the new pastor.  We even heard a story of a pastor who talked his congregation into calling a man to be his associate for a few years; then they switched roles and the older man became the associate and the newer one became the senior pastor; finally the older man retired but hung around acting like the Senior Pastor until the newer man left years later and continued that way several years into the ministry of the next man!

 

Having heard all these stories, here are several observations we made:

 

As with many retiring people who form their identity based on their job, the pastor whose identity is based on his role as pastor will often be depressed or discouraged and have a hard time letting go in retirement.  The best recommendation here is, as I have heard Dr. Terry Wardle of Ashland Thelogical Seminary say numerous times, “don’t base your identity on something that can be taken away.”

 

We’re often afraid to confront manipulative / bullying people in the church (including pastors) because (a) we’re afraid they may get angry and leave or (b) we think that we must suffer because Jesus suffered -and “the servant is not above the master.”  Yet although Jesus was not afraid of His own suffering, neither was He afraid to set boundaries against some folks so that they would not cause others to suffer (e.g., the little children parents brought for His blessing, the prostitute being criticized for pouring perfume on His feet).

 

Toward the end of Moses’ ministry God took him up to the mountaintop and handed the reins over to Joshua, then removed Moses from the picture by taking his life (He did the same to Elijah).  For both Joshua and Elisha, for the people of Israel as well, the ministries of the great predecessors had definite ending points that all had to deal with together – with neither Moses nor Elisha in sight to oversee the transition.

 

Samuel, on the other hand, was “voted out of office” when the people decided they wanted a king.  While God told him that they were acting against God and not Samuel, I guess Samuel had to live with that.  But since they had rejected his leadership he couldn’t very well pretend to keep leading them, could he?  So perhaps he lived the rest of his life as a sort of pundit / prophet, commenting but not leading.  Yet I’m pretty sure that this is not the most healthy role for a retired pastor, either, as there can be a mighty fine line between “prophet” and “grump.”

 

Finally, David had in mind to build a temple for the Lord but was told “not you, but your son will build the temple.”  David was satisfied with this, though, and spent considerable effort gathering resources and materials so that Solomon wouldn’t have to waste time doing that himself.  Perhaps it is wise to make appropriate preparations for retirement, to prepare the congregation and the people for the need to face the event and the issues; but like David to understand that though you can assemble the materials, it really is the successor to whom it falls to build them into the next ministry.

 

Caring for the Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:1-6 – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing, ” declares the Lord.

This is the Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday for many of us.  It’s kind of a warning for us preachers and pastors, isn’t it?  “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”  Kind of makes me want to pull in my head and glance around:  “You talkin’ to me?”  Because here God is upset on behalf of His sheep.  He’s left them under the care of some shepherds, but He’s come to find out His sheep are uncared-for, they are scattered, far away, afraid, terrified, and missing.  He’s steaming, now, and will replace those shepherds with new ones who will care for His flock properly.

So what if you and I, my brothers and sisters in the ministry, are these new shepherds?  Often we wonder about whether we’ll “do the job well” so we also won’t be replaced.  But we’re not only shepherds but sheep, too.  So as we assume the task and role of shepherding God’s sheep, who tends the shepherds?  Who cares for them?  What if the shepherds themselves are uncared-for, scattered, disconnected, afraid, terrified, or even missing / AWOL?  

Does your administrative structure care for you like a shepherd cares for the flock?  Does it try to provide connection and collection, a place of peace and grace and consolation for the shepherds?  

Do the shepherds around you mostly tend each other without outside help?  Do you have a group of fellow-shepherds that care for one another, lift one another up, create and atmosphere of forgiveness and consolation among yourselves, and speak the precious Gospel to each other frequently?

Or do you mostly go it alone?  Is God’s tending enough for you?  It may well be, and certainly we want to learn to depend on Him to fill all our core longings.  I’m not saying that shepherds should look to other shepherds to fill the longings that only God can fill.  I am suggesting, though, that He provides fellow-shepherds, small groups of pastors, regional conferences, even judicatory officials as vessels of His mercy and grace for your strengthening, refreshment, and care as you go about your work as His shepherds.

Drop me a comment or send me an email to continue this conversation.

SermonSeeds: Belonging

A post from The Formational Pastor

Ephesians 2:11-12 / RCL Proper 11, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22 2012

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Let’s talk about the Core Longing of Belonging today, shall we?  Paul reminds the Ephesians (and us) that there was a time when we did not belong to the people of God – and such “not belonging” meant we were without hope, too.  But in Jesus Christ God has eliminated every barrier to our belonging to Him.  He has totally filled that Core Longing through His Son.

What words do you want to use to describe what God has done to meet that longing?  “No longer two, but one” means that you who belong to God cannot be counted separately anymore.  “One body” means that you are united to all the others who belong to Him, you draw life from each other and give life to each other through mutual encouragement and forgiveness in Jesus’ Name.  “He preached peace” not only means that He announced peace, but since His Word has creative power He also created peace between you and all believers, as He did between you and God.  “You are fellow citizens with God’s people” with all the rights and privileges we accord to citizens – and you know how the political debate rages over immigration these days.  No such debate over your status!  “You are members of God’s household.”  Not just a next-door-neighbor citizen, but a member of God’s family, with a seat at His dinner table and a place always in His house and home.  “Being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit,” so that if those who are not citizens of God’s Kingdom and outside His family, who are still far away from Him and separated from Him should be looking for directions to Him, for guidance to Jerusalem, for the presence of the Temple where God truly dwells among His people, they need look no farther than to you and the believers around you.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑