Time and church

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‘You need to be more involved in your local church’

I remember preaching something like that once, although probably not as overtly psychologically manipulative as that. Over time, I became less overt: I was aware of people who were on the edges of church life around my age who just had too much on; giving them a guilt trip about what they weren’t doing did not seem like a good thing to do.

Maybe that made me a bad minister, I don’t know. I do know that this is a bugbear of ministers who have pastoral charge over a church; we have empty roles to fill and we can’t do them/we already feel overloaded and why won’t people come forward? The trouble is that-although this is true- when it comes across as needy and as guilt-ridden as that, it isn’t very appealing. Besides which; doesn’t ‘calling’ mean more than doing jobs in your local church?

In any case, I never quite squared the circle with that one; I was convinced that the strident church-centric approach of some of my colleagues in the wider church was not the correct one, however, I’m not sure if I found the ‘right’ approach. I was grateful for the number of people who offered their gifts and sometimes let things ‘slip’ so that people could exercise their unique gifts in a way that ‘worked’

I guess I’m writing this as nearly 4 years into my current way of being outside of full-time church ministry, I do little in a local church, feel little inclination to do so and sometimes I have mild twinges of guilt about that.

Yet, as I think about it a little more, as to helping out in a local church; I have no model or personal experience of 2 adults in their early 50s working full time and two teenagers with ‘full’ lives. My previous experience of helping out in a local church before I was a full-time minister was as part of a couple in their mid/late 20s in full-time work but with no kids, more energy and ‘time rich'(and much less involved in the local community than I am now.)

What’s the answer? Some thoughts:-

  • I don’t think there is an answer at the moment; just ‘go with the flow’ is about all that I can say- help out where you can, but recognise that to commit to anything is difficult right now.
  • A sense of repentance where I’ve put heavy guilt in the past on people in the same situation.
  • The future is open and unknown; one thing that these last few years have taught me is that once you’ve set out on a journey, the journey changes you-you don’t return in the same form, or at all…

To be continued…

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