January 13, 2011


At a clergy event on Monday, a colleague of mine and I sat near the back.  We are very good listeners... but sometimes a little snarky.  Sitting that far back, we can pass comments quietly to one another without disturbing everyone else =)  Really, we are trying to be good participants!

In both that event and in a few subsequent gatherings with clergy, from a variety of places, I have found myself this week very aware that there are some jaded folks in our midst. 

Image by: Przemyslaw Szczepanski
They are isolated from their congregations theologically and spiritually.  They are hurt from past successes no one took notice of.  They feel called to do something, but don't see any support structure to guide them. They have had times of failure and are afraid to try again.

I bet almost every single pastor that I encountered this week could write part of that story.  And to be sure, some have very positive responses to these experiences and have moved on.  Some just have these jaded days once in a blue moon. But I think so many have had them, that I'm sensing it has led to a frustration and lack of trust and community among the larger body.

As a young adult, we see what is going on and we are doing EVERYTHING we can to prevent ourselves from getting there.  We are building networks of support amongst ourselves - cell groups that develop geographically, but are not silos... we welcome folks in and out as we pass through one anothers ministry.  We sit with older clergy and welcome them into our midst as we share with one another the strengths and trials of our ministries. We take time to vent and to grieve and to celebrate. And we are trying to advocate for one another.

There is certainly a lot that can still be done to continue to build this network.  We are trying to connect with those going through the ordination process to offer support, but we have met a few road blocks.  Our semi-annual retreats don't always get off the ground (ice storm, anyone?!).  And we are still seeking more ways to deepen the connections we share. And sometimes we are a little cliquish... we could do a better job of expanding our horizons and stepping out of our own comfort zones more often. When we do, it is often through our colleagues/RIM group/Sub-District, rather than diving into relationships with folks we have never met. Might I also add that we are naive and hopeful bunch? 

Hope is not a foolish thing, however.

And even if it is, aren't we called to be fools for the sake of Christ?

What I most hope today is that our snarky little attitudes never become jaded.  That we can have fun with one another and question without feeling threatened. That the trust we are building amongst ourselves truly will bring life to the dry bones and transform the clergy of future generations... with God's help.


  1. I have learned (as a snarky one), that snarky attitudes can be seen as arrogance. To make comments from a point of less lengthy experience (I did not say inexperience), can make those who have been through the struggle feel belittled. I'm glad you added the naive and hopeful - that naivety needs to be claimed more often. Not as a means to keep anyone in their place, but as a way to recognize the different places we are in.

    I applaud your relationship-building efforts and I pray the political workings of the church do not cause you to draw back from honest discourse. Politics is an amoral reality in any organization - make every effort to keep it honest and uplifting. It hits home most significantly when you realize your friend may become your DS who has a responsibility to the larger church.

    I am thankful for these conversations via blogs that allow me to consider the possibility that I am living jaded instead of joyful.

    Peace to you,

  2. Thanks, Mike, for the helpful reflection about snarkiness. (is that even a word?) I had not thought about comments, even when kept to myself, bringing the impression of arrogance.

    I also like the contrast between jaded and joyful that you highlight. I'm not sure I would have chosen those to as opposing ways of looking at our system... yet they really do work.

    How can we turn our disappointments into opportunities for growth? How can we build joyful community instead of a mistrust-filled connection? How can we celebrate the successes of another instead of comparing them to our own work that may have thrived/failed.

    Peace to you also!

  3. Katie,
    I have followed your blog for some time and am thankful for your words. I served in Iowa for nearly 20 years before coming to Alaska where I now serve as a missionary.
    I once was the one sitting in the back row making snarky comments about older pastors. Over the years I guess I worked my way forward in the room (to be accurate, I worked my way out of the room and into Alaska).
    I do believe that the true measure of the emotional/spiritual state of pastors in a Conference is probably worst measured when they're all in the same room. There is an emotional and spiritual lowest common denominator that becomes palpable at some of those gatherings.
    Having said that, one of the moments I miss most dearly is clergy session at Annual Conference. I miss the affirmation of electing new persons to orders. I miss the honoring of ordination anniversaries and retirees. It is at those moments, I have experienced the best of what it has meant to be an ordained elder in our connection. Even those times of pain when we've had to deal with issues of discipline or removal, I've nearly always experienced a profound sense of holy responsibility in maintaining integrity. As one who serves in a missionary conference that has no clergy of its own and therefore no official clergy session or orders gatherings, I miss those moments...and even the opportunities to be snarky, or, watch others do so.
    May God continue to bless you and send my greetings to my colleagues in Iowa.
    Pastor Jon

  4. I really do love our clergy gatherings. Like you, Jon, I think that we need those times to honor and celebrate and be truthful with one another. It was amazing to sit amongst colleagues that first time when I was brought forward for comissioning! The sense of wisdom and experience in that room, the idea of being initiated into a community of my peers, the support and encouragement - all of those things you mentioned above.