A short snapshot of three days
I walk, I talk, I listen. I wish I drove less.
In the last few days, in a non-chronological order, this has been my work. I talked with several different pastors from around our synod. They had various challenges they were facing. One has a staff member who is not playing well with others and this pastor sought advice and counsel on how best to address the matter. We came up with some ideas. Another was facing the challenge of boundaries, not sexual boundaries, but professional. At what point is it appropriate to engage a colleague regarding their behavior? How do we maintain the interests of the church, even when it calls on us to put our friendship with someone at risk? Tough questions. I later heard back from the pastor, and so far so good - but it was not an easy conversation.
I met with a congregation that is in the middle of a call process, but their finances have restricted them to searching for other models of ministry. We discussed part-time pastors, part-time ministers from another tradition, lay leadership, partnering with other congregations. The conversation was honest and open. It reflected the changing times we are in, and the need to think differently about parish ministry.
I walked with someone who had some very creative ideas about how to address the clergy shortage, train a new generation of ministers and offer them an experience in community. The ideas were alive, and fraught with all kinds of landmines, but suggested a new vision that is emerging.
I sat with our deans, leaders of conferences, as we learned the value of how to apply organizing principles to congregational renewal. It was challenging, thoughtful and inspiring. Our speaker framed every single step in a context of Biblical reflections. I saw hope coming to life.
In the office, I sat with our Synod Assembly planning team coordinator. We reviewed details and plans, made lists of tasks to be accomplished along with deadlines. After three hours, I returned to my office exhausted and exhilarated. I then sat and signed 60 some certificates for graduates from our coming School of Lay Ministry, and another 40 plus certificates for deacons and pastors celebrating anniversaries at our coming Assembly.
My hand in a spasm from all the signings, I headed to the car. On the way home, I listened to a pastor as we talked on the phone. She shared her sorrows and disappointments in her work. Her multi-year efforts to teach, preach and visit. Yet, so many in her congregation don't seem to care or value the teachings of Jesus.
Another conversation centered around concerns for people in the LGBTQ+ community. How can we as a church, a synod, and I as bishop, best understand, support, challenge, encourage, celebrate.
Three days. A glimpse into the work I do. In the words of a colleague of mine, "This work is relentless."
True, but it is also good work.