...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is the Church Abnormal?

In terms of work environments, many who have worked in contexts outside of local churches (which excludes many life-long clergy), see the weirdness of our church parishes. I attribute this to freedom of religion, which allows us to decide how we want to operate. This quirk of our existence means that churches and those who support them are on their own to find whatever works best for them.

Sometimes it appears that the general culture is much more advanced than our church culture. That lag is what turns people off, in part. For example, secular workplaces are more ethnically diverse than the vast majority of our churches at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. For decades this hour has been known as the most segregated hour in America.

In health care contexts, employees are required by law to observe a strict confidentiality with patients and residents. Churches found this regulation to be a stumbling block when HIPPA first went into effect 10 years ago. By now, we have learned that confidentiality is part of, not separate from, any pastoral care and spiritual direction.

And, how long will same-sex unions be a right granted and practiced freely in some states but a rite denied by many national church assemblies?

I think sometimes we have hidden behind the freedom of religion as an excuse not to change instead of using to create positive changes. As protection, insulation from the world. Those who visit us on Sunday mornings will observe these differences from their every day, working lives, and maybe even see the hypocrisy of our saying we are "open" when we are not. They would probably notice the culture lag too. Who could blame them?

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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