In a recent conversation with a clergy colleague, we were laughing a bit at how random the daily life and work of any clergy person can be. We began as this colleague spoke of having to address a minor plumbing issue in the church that he serves, and we continued with a long list of other jobs (i.e. copy machine operator, counter wiper, publications and social media guru, musician, bulletin/newsletter/projection editor, door un-locker, photo & historical item sorter, graphic designer, and much more) that are far outside our theological education.
I’ve perceived for a long time that the vocation of a clergy person is one of the very few generalist vocations that remain. We are expected to have expertise in a great number of things, from public speaking to administration to office management to artistic design to spiritual/therapeutic counseling. At the same time, my teaching friends specialize in particular subjects or age groups; my engineering friends specialize in specific fields; my legal friends are seen as litigators or researchers, or focus on estate law or family law or criminal law; my medical friends specialize in oncology or pediatrics or dermatology.
This is not to say that specializing is better than generalizing or vice-versa. I simply find it an interesting observation.
And as I think about it, I wonder if the vocation of a clergy person really is a specialty and has always been so. I wonder if we specialize in identifying and lifting up the God-given gifts and passions of the persons in our communities.
In other words, a huge part of the role of the clergy – surely as I see it – is to teach and empower the laity in a community to do ministry. My vocation is about teaching people how to be the church.
And this isn’t how some people see it.
I remember a time early in my ministry serving at a large church where a congregation member told me that I was best suited to do a job because I was the paid staff person. That’s not being the church! That’s paying someone else to do it.
Here at Pacific Beach UMC, we have a deep understanding of being the church. We understand that Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors is less about welcoming outsiders to be conformed than it is about a commission to go into the world to live as the body of Christ.
With this outward focus, we also recognize the importance of some inward attention. This is not to say that we should in any way prioritize ourselves over others, but to recognize that self-care enables us to to offer transforming experiences that lead us into our communities to be the body of Christ.
As we celebrate the Easter season as well as the vision of new life in Spring, I invite each of you to consider how you might grow into deeper service to your faith community and the communities in which you live. If you feel called to serve at one of our Wednesday night meals, come to the church that day at 4pm. If you feel called to serve as a Worship leader or Usher or Greeter, speak with anyone who is doing those jobs. If you feel called to join our fabulous choir or hand bell choir, speak with Ron J. or Amy B. If you feel called to prepare a meal for a local teen shelter, talk to Joan F. If you feel called to lend quilting or sewing skills, talk to Florence S. If you feel called to share love and compassion with our LGBTQ neighbors, speak with Louis P. or Sidney Y. about our upcoming Pride ministries. If you feel called to fold bulletins or newsletters, let us know in the church office. If you feel called in a direction and want to explore, or if what you’re experiencing isn’t addressed here, please talk to me!
Spring is a season of growth. I continue to live out my call to lift up and empower God’s people for transforming ministry in our communities and the world. I invite you to join me in this joyful and transforming work.
We continue to be a resurrection people. Thanks be to God!