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.