http://www.nakedpastor.com/Â has been an inspiration for me; strange quirky cartoons that I have used a lot and get to the real issues and what is greater- vulnerability. This guy is a pastor and yet he is open, in a field that does not generally exhibit openness and can tend to ‘look at me; look at the ”success” I am having’. If you don’t believe me, talk even to the nicest of us (that would be me then) and see how often our conversation is peppered with ”my’ church’ ,Â Â Â Â ‘ this church got this wrong until I sorted them out’, ‘ ‘I’ had 22 at the evening service last night.’ , ‘ ‘I’ Â have planted a church’. etc etc.
Vulnerability (and I don’t mean narcissistic vulnerability)is deeply unsettling for the person doing it, but more so for many church members (paradoxically those ‘outside’ the church often do not seem to have a problem). For the pastor/leader; ‘I can’t be any less than the messiah; I’m the expert- it is too scary’….for the church attendee ‘S/he said that; they are not ‘proper’- we need a leader.’
That isÂ a caricature, but I feel in a lot of cases, sadly accurate. We need our ‘naked pastors’ as prophets to be vulnerable- we can’t talk about honesty and openness which help to build real community unless we show it.
But….it is scary- far better to pretend and be safe (but at the same time feel a little colder inside) and strive for imagined ‘competence’ and be a ‘good minister’.
I am feeling so unsettled at the moment; very good friends are emmigrating and good friends who live in this community are moving in 3-4 weeks. Both sets of friends are Â people that pray. We can call on them, drop round, phone up. This feels very difficult right now.
We are living in a place where a lot of people would give their right arm to live in; good schools, countryside, good community and yet……
….I am not sure if I have ever really ‘fitted’ here or felt totally at home. It did not help that we moved at a very hard time in our lives (2 kids 3 & under,Â and having lost our support and friendship networks); we were not in a good place and not well inclined to see blessing. We moved into a house that ….well let me say that we would tell friends our street, but not the number and say ‘find it’- strangely enough they always found it;Â it stuck out as a ‘church house’. There were reasons for that and the subsequent struggle to get improvement, but in a wealthy area that felt really hard. The people were and are friendly, but for one reason or another they did not do any meaningful or practical hospitality for us for a considerable time. I don’t know why; maybe with many in support networks or being reasonably well off it was hard to imagine people who were not. Maybe people imagine a minister to be somehow ‘different’… I just don’t know…. We had little money, I wasÂ away for a couple of weeks a year or more doing MA stuff, we had two kids and knewÂ no one and had no support networks; it was tough.
Things are better, but that early experience comes back from time to timeÂ and particularly now (perhaps as a ‘good’ Christian I should get over it- but it still stings) ; I am feeling a tad unsettled. Â I don’t want to write those words or for them to be public…but…. ‘vulnerability’…..My wife has a bewildering variety of career options on offer and decisions have to be made in the next few days. I/we long to find friends to share and pray with and a supportive community….it don’t seem to be there in the way that I long for….
Partly it is me- that which I crave, I am not sure I model. Partly it is what I do- I try to think missionally and try new stuff; a ministry I am involved with needs a re think after 3 years- there is risk and uncertainty and I feel exposed and unsure……yadda yadda yadda….
There is a part of me that dreams of starting over again. But my denomination has a strange system for moving. Try and invent a system that compares with this:-
You give noticeÂ & have to leave by mid July/August. Often that can be up to 18 months in advance. At this time you have no idea of vacancies. Even if you did, you could not apply for them. A point arrives, usually 11 months before you are due to go- you meet with a leader, outlining the 5 or 6 out of all the available vacancies that you would like to look at. Months pass…. you get a name…it may not be any of the five or six… you go and look, maybe say ‘no’…you wait a month, get another name and this process goes on and on. You might say ‘yes’, you might continue to say ‘no’ and you may never get to look atÂ any of those 5 or 6 you started with. All the time you know that time is running out as you have given notice and can’t stay…. Meanwhile your denomination pushes out reports to say how wonderful the system is……. grrrrrrr
It just couldn’t be invented, could it?
And into this heady brew…. I’m praying, mixed up and unsure and I come to the Psalms…. Psalm 55:6-7:-
Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
Â Â Â Â Â Â then I would fly away and rest!
Â I would fly far away
Â Â Â Â Â Â to the quiet of the wilderness.
…and I have no answers and I still don’t know, whether it is just me, whether it is January or whatever. And- even though I can feel nothing, I have a hunch somewhere that I/we are known.
If you have any spare prayers; to paraphrase ‘Elbow’ : ‘send up a prayer in my name…’