Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Double Speak

I just wish people would say what they mean.

I had a situation where someone in my congregation was going to have gall bladder surgery. It was going to be laproscopic surgery and she was going to be outpatient surgery. When she mentioned it, she downplayed the whole thing. I mentioned something to her on Sunday after service that I hope all goes well and to get in touch with me if there is any need. (I am only quarter-time, and she was not making it sound like it was anything big.)

On Thursday, at the vestry meeting, her husband, who is the senior warden of the vestry, said that she was upset that I didn't say anything during the service. In my year at this church, I have never had a special prayer for a person having surgery. Not that it couldn't be done, it just hasn't been in the past.

Suddenly, I am getting "OMG" things from the archdeacon who can't believe that I would "forget" this lady. Remember, this lady downplayed the whole surgery thing and didn't ask that I come to see her before the surgery.

Then I hear, "You need to work on 'connecting' with people" from the senior warden. And when I call the senior warden's wife to see how she is doing, she also says I need to "connect with people."


I see people on Sundays and when I run into them in town. I am only quarter time. I don't know what else I should be doing. These people made no effort of inviting me over to their home or finging opportunities to connect. But because I did not do something that they thought that I should, then I was not "connecting."

Please people, be kind to your clergy. They are humans trying to do the best they can. They are not psychic: if you don't tell them, they don't know. They have lives and troubles. They DON'T have "the pastor" to talk to because they ARE the pastor. You are NOT the main focus of their life. They care about you, but there are also things that happen in their lives too.


Urspo said...

people expect me to read their minds too, or sort through their words to get at what they really mean and want. how silly.

Lemuel said...

The situation that you describe is vary familiar to me and is one of the major reasons that I do not regret the decision that I made in 1988. It is small comfort because I know the frustration you are dealing with, but my conclusion is that persons such as the warden and his wife are needy, petty, and immature - and deep inside they know it. Their way of avoiding facing such self-centeredness is to deflect responsibility onto someone else - you in this case. They will hold a community pity party for themselves and you will be invited to be the villain. Since you are the "outsider", the other's in the community will - at least outwardly - take the part of the warden and wife.
As I see/saw it, there is nothing much that you can do, but to continue to be caring and compasionate to your people and pray that the Holy Spirit will move the hearts of others to see the truth and to come around. It will take every ounce of Christian charity, but you must continue to be caring and compassion - without groveling - to this warden and his wife despite their pettiness. You must not stoop to their level.
I would also sugges that you step back and review the situation. This incident may be a "cover" for something deeper between this warden/wife and you. Perhaps in the past they were catered to by the previous rectors who kissed their ass and asked how high when told to jump. If you are caring for your all flock equally, this couple may feel slighted. There is also the possibility that they are not keen with a "Family-oriented" pastor. This pique may just be cover for their attitudes that they know are not in keeping with the "mind of Christ". My hugs and prayers are with you, Benton!

Paul Brownsey said...

Maybe they assume that God will let you know when anyone needs attention..........

Steve F. said...

You forgot to read the ad when you applied, brother...remember reading this?

WANTED; Honest, trustworthy, positive, highly spiritual pastor, to lead large inner-city church. Must be consummate preacher, tireless teacher, willing to visit all sick in ten hospitals and fifteen nursing homes by noon on Tuesdays. Limited support staff. Must attend prayer meetings, preside over boards, supervise all personnel. Must be politically astute to deal with church infrastructure. Must be emotionally well adjusted, spend sufficient time with family, willing to work sixteen hour per day. Organizing, administration and fundraising skills required. Will not be involved in money management. Candidates will be required to maintain academic currency with theological thought and be actively involved in community affairs. Must not be too liberal, too conservative, or given to extensive evangelism. Moderate salary designed to ensure continuous humility. Must be well dressed, but not flashy. Must be independent, adventuresome, able to initiate and respond creatively to all situations. Must be fearless, flawless, and willing to take all risks. Sermons limited to 20 minutes, modest volume. Subjects must be consistently brilliant, creative, funny, non-controversial. Applicants must apply in person and in public. Excellent opportunity for self-starter!

(from Preaching Through A Storm, by H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., p. 157. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.)

Context: this is a want-ad for a Baptist minister. You can adjust "inner-city" and "20 minutes" according to your own tradition. (In my own Lutheran tradition, I had an "elder statesman" of the congregation tell me that the standard for a sermon should be just like a business presentation: if I couldn't say it in six minutes, I was wasting my time...)

No one understands "quarter-time" ministry. In their eyes, you've got the title, regardless what they pay you...

I feel your pain.