Wednesday, May 02, 2007

the role of a pastor

Maybe to some of you unprogrammed Friends this question isn't that important, but for me it's very important. I guess what's at stake here is this: what exactly do we "release" people to do? As a "released minister," what's the goal? Since we're all ministers, is there something unique about the ministry of those who are paid, or do they just get to do it in a more official form and that's it?

Releasing people for ministry could go two ways, as I see it: either we release a few people in our meetings to minister to the needs of those in the meeting, equipping them to go out and be more effective ministers in the rest of the world; or we release those we sense are called to ministry outside the meeting and we provide the funds necessary for them to do that work and to live while doing so. These two kinds of released ministers would have very different job descriptions, and I suppose that's what we should go off--the job descriptions. Perhaps there are some of each, and every meeting gets to choose what kind of minister it wants to pay for (if any).

But it seems like a lot of times, the pastor is expected to be both of these things. S/he is expected to know what's going on in the meeting community, uphold those in the meeting, take leadership on organizing and carrying out meeting activities, etc. At the same time, s/he is often expected to be going out into the community and drawing people in to the meeting community.

It may be because I'm only working 10 hrs/wk as a released minister right now, but the thought of being paid to do both those things feels rather daunting to me. It seems like there's so much to do in the meeting that it's hard to ever get outside of it to meet people who don't walk through the doors of their own accord. And yet, it seems like that's extremely important work. Perhaps it's more important than staying within the walls. It seems like meeting the needs of those who are oppressed is more important than creating a nice worship service for middle class church-goers. But it seems like the role of the released pastor is usually to care for those already in the community first, and then if there's time to venture out.

But if we only help those who are our friends, what good is that? Even the tax collectors and "sinners" do that! (Matthew 5). We're called to something more, aren't we? And if those who are paid to do full time ministry can't even be released to that "something more," then why exactly are we being paid?

3 comments:

MartinK said...

Hi Cherice,
It seems like these are very different types of service and I'm not sure the gifts they represent are necessarily interchangable. It's pastoral vs prophetic, love vs truth. Hopefully we all try to live into both of these as much as possible to know how love is truth is love is truth and on and on. But practically speaking I've not known many people who were equally gifted at these roles. As long as we're faithful to that piece we are given--and no more and no less--then we'll be held up in the work.

Nancy A said...

I would like to know more about how ministry works in your meeting, especially released ministry. This has always been a vague concept to me, though I have met a released minister or two. In fact, now that I think on it, I think my own meeting just released me, so, yes, learning more about this idea would, hm, be very important...

As for ministry itself--I have met many clergy from traditional churches who are torn to pieces by the demands placed on them. They have to orchestrate a religious experience every Sunday to meet everyone's needs and yet still be a spiritual person. The transition from minister to clergy is a subtle one, but one that inevitably leads the spiritual leader to become more of a juggler, fire-putter-outer, and logistical coordinator.

Perhaps this is because of the pay. Perhaps congregants simply decide that if money is paid, then the paid person does all the work, and everybody else is scot free. But as you point out, the pay is simply part of the releasement: it covers living costs to allow the person to be truly free to minister.

Our meeting struggled with this last year when the parents more or less demanded a paid person to run the children's program. That, ironically, released *us* to minister!

Our local Quaker meeting moved the meeting time to the afternoon in order to provide a service to spiritually exhausted clergy, a place where they can worship in peace without demands on them. The meeting does active outreach to tired clergy. It takes some doing to persuade them that here, no one will ask them to do or be anything!

(PS How is the baby? New photos are always welcome)

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Cherice, my understanding roughly accords with Martin's.

1. What pastoral Friends meetings have are not so much released ministers as paid pastors. That is, they do not hire people to provide ministry -- ministry comes from God, and God may choose to deliver it through anyone, and in fact He may never ever choose to deliver it through the person the meeting chooses to hire, so what's the point of the meeting hiring someone to do it? -- but, rather, they hire people to provide pastoral care.

Pastoral care may include logistical work (setting up meetings; arranging transportation), clerical work (paying bills, tracking record-keeping), grunt work (hauling furniture around; delivering meals), counseling (helping members, attenders and visitors in times of crisis; addressing those who are religiously confused), and in general, anything that a shepherd ("pastor" is the Latin word for "shepherd") might do for his or her flock. Unlike ministry, there is no expectation that pastoral care is directly led and inspired by God; it's simply a job, a very worthy job, like being a school or hospital administrator.

2. Ministry in the Quaker world-view is not properly a calling but a favoring, a leading, and/or a gift.

-- 2a. To say ministry is a calling (a "vocation", in the Latin) is to say that one can make a professional career of it. One is not supposed to be able to do this in Quakerism.

-- 2b. Ministry is a favoring if one is divinely favored with a message to speak or with a thing to do: this is one-time ministry.

-- 2c. Ministry is a leading if one is led by God, the Voice in one's heart and conscience, to minister for a time to a particular group of people -- as, for example, one may led to travel in the ministry in Paraguay, or to labor in the ministry among the unchurched derelicts in the legal profession. Such a leading is always connected to a specific task, and when one's part in the task is fulfilled (in whatever way), then the leading is withdrawn.

-- 2d. Ministry is a gift, a charism, if it is the case that one is frequently and consistently favored with messages to speak and things to do over a long period of time; a person who consistently has the inspired thing to say or do will become regarded as gifted in the ministry. But it is understood that the gift of ministry may be withdrawn at any time.

3. Friends may release a person to follow a specific leading in the ministry without hindrance. Less commonly, they may release a person with ministerial gifts simply to express her or his gifts without hindrance ("to be free to minister", as Nancy A puts it). But both these things are things quite different from hiring a person as a pastor.