Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Isolation of the Pastorate

Meredith Gudger-Raines has an excellent article in UM Portal about the severe isolation that the pastorate instigates from the non-Christian world. She recounts making new friends at a Starbucks and then trying to find time to spend with them:

But it was Saturday night, and the bulletins needed to be copied. (And let’s be honest: The sermon needed to be written.) I wanted to go, but I knew my place.

Yet the women I was with didn’t seem to stick me in that place. One even said, “Oh, a Friday night out would be better for you. We’ll have to think about that next time.” The other, who said she’s a Buddhist, said, “We accept everyone! Everyone needs more girlfriends.”

I left feeling angry for being isolated in a job where I never meet people like me. But my the time I got home, I was angry with myself for letting myself become so isolated. These women didn’t seem to see a divide between me and them; why did I superimpose one?

We say John Wesley said, “The world is my parish,” but I’ve let the church become my parish. I get nervous about being among the people of God. I don’t want to be separated out. I want to be me, one of God’s children, one of the crowd. Is that possible as a pastor?

I vividly remember, about five years ago, walking away from playing role-playing games so that I could have more time for ministry in my local church. I recognized at the time that it was ironic; I was following a call into the ordained ministry and consequently shutting myself off further from the non-Christian world. And I was not only ceasing to be a Christian presence among the gamer community; I was shutting myself off from my buddies.

I have friends at seminary and even an 'accountability partner'. It's nice to have colleagues, and to grow close to them. But I miss having sheer buddies.


David said...

I love my soccer league for this very set of reasons.
I would love to have softball and basketball for that same reason.
My wife has now found the theater to the same ends.

Rev. J said...

I think it gets even harder has you move to other appointments. I know my wife and I haven't found 'buddies' in our new town because the only people we know are church people. I miss seminary and the buddies there! Life seemed so simple then.

Anonymous said...

I'm in vocational ministry...I have friends outside of the church...and many christians who are friends and don't attend my church...

This week, I've met two fellow christians for breakfast/lunch, and have spent one-on-one time with "members" outside of the office or a hospital (or funeral home) :)

I'm seldom in the office, but love to visit people at their houses, schools, work, and would rather be "out and about" at a coffee shop, donut hole, or restaurant.

It's simply a matter of being intentional about spending time with people outside the walls of "the church", IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who just posted about being "intentional" and I want to add that I'm not a pastor of a UMC church. If I were, however, I would definitely forgo many of the district/cluster/clergy meetings unless there were some sort of true spiritual/personal development to be realized in my life.

Nearly every UMC event I've attended that is conference/district/cluster related has been a complete waste of time.

Mark Winter said...

Anon wrote, Nearly every UMC event I've attended that is conference/district/cluster related has been a complete waste of time.

Ah, there's the rub. How are we supposed to "make disciples" by hopping from meeting to denominational meeting?

Pastor Blue Jeans said...

It has been a difficult transition for me as well. I find I have less in comon with other clergy than I do with people in my church or in the community at large.

I do not know if it is because I came into ministry after working for years at several other careers.

I have close friends who are clergy but it would be nice to have some outside my immediate church. I know that is my fault but it is still a fact for now.

Some of the things that I would like to do, seem "inappropriate" for a pastor at times.

Ehhh, no answer just more questions.