Monday, June 8, 2009

Friends

Like hobbies, we need to be able to identify our friends. Because our work as pastors is very relational, when I took my first appointment, a student pastorate in a small textile- mill town in North Carolina, I remarked to an old college friend from Texas, that being a pastor was LIKE being a friend. Friendship was the most comparable frame I had at the time- 29 years ago.

In discussing a theology of ordination, No Longer Servants draws on friendship love not servant-hood as the metaphor in describing the person and work of the pastor. I like it because it is a corrective to some of the abuses of servanthood. Regardless of where you stand normatively, the question is, who are your true friends?

Can the same people you pastor also be your friends? In a word, no. Not because you cannot support each other mutually as Christ's body, but because their receiving spiritual care from you does not include your getting friendship in return. To be among friends means that I can be myself, totally, and, while I overlook and learn to accept the "that's who they are" aspect of others, they also can learn to tolerate that in me.

So while, aspects of friendship love (mutual support, trust, communication, respect) are very important in all we do as church and clergy, it's just not fair to expect others who are in our care to be our friends.

So the question returns, who are your friends and do you spend regular time with them? If I blow that question off, then I start expecting things from people that they cannot be expected to provide.

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