A few posts have popped up this week on our radar about what pastors/priests/ministers and the like want their parishioners to know about what goes on between Sundays and, for that matter, what goes on during Sundays. We figured this looked like a prime place for us to wade into the water, so here we go.
1. Your minister has a personal life. Just like your teachers in school and your doctor, ministers and priests have a life that existed long before they were ordained. So, just like you, they have family issues and car trouble and dishes that sit in the sink far too long and children who were up sick all night before the Easter Day services. Just like regular people, life can be joyous and overwhelming. And we often are not able to share that with parishioners. A quote I saw on a bumper sticker said, "Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Yes, indeed.
2. Sundays are long days for us. We are on, and I mean Beyonce at a concert on, from the time we step into the church until the last person leaves. We are responsible for the liturgy, the sermon, and the climate control (because no one in the church agrees on temperature). People tell us things, from random comments about the football game to significant news about their lives. We often are teaching a class, as well. A retired priest I knew said every hour clergy work on Sundays is the equivalent of working 2.5 hours any other day.
3. Clergy have to flip switches in ways that are not good. Every priest I know has many stories of going from a parishioner's hosptital room where the family has gathered to say goodbye to a finance committee meeting. It is the nature of what we do. Remember when your minister takes a morning off, s/he may be giving herself or himself time to reflect on all that has happened because that's the only time she has.
4. We miss the parishioners we bury. Just because we're preaching the sermon and celebrating the liturgy like we're totally together doesn't mean we aren't crying on the inside. Clergy do not live day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year with the people they serve and not grieve when those beloved people die. Again, grief needs her space and time, so allow your minister to take that time (or remind them to take that time.)
5. We are not particularly good at disappointment. Perhaps it's a personality type, but most clergy I know will work until their fingers fall off for the community they love and serve. Just a note - this is not good. God jerked my attention to this fact a week before Palm Sunday, when I just hit a wall. We cannot do everything we want to do. We only have a certian amount of energy, which means we, like the rest of the humanity, have to make choices about where and how our energy can be shared. This will always mean something that someone really, really wants to see done in the church will not be done. And we hate that, but there you go.
6. Life happens at the church every day of the week. A few things that happen when the flock is not at the church: planning liturgies, writing sermons, taking phone calls, meeting with people who need to be heard, visiting those who are sick, working with community groups, dealing with the physical plant, reading emails, and rearranging schedules when the unexpected happens, as it often does. Churches are busy, busy places every day of the week. Which also means it's always better to make an appointment rather than just stop by if you really need to talk.
7. Many clergy only get one day off a week. For many of us, things happen on Saturday, so our Saturdays are not always a day off. And it's also a day for sermon-writing because often the week gets too busy for quiet time to write.
8. Church life is often feast or famine. Just like regular life, life in the church either seems to run at 100 mph or quite slow. There are weeks that 80 hours is not unusual for me, and I am quite thankful for the ones that require about 20. And when the slow weeks come, having a parish that empowers their clergy to take that time and relax is a gift. We really love what we do, but need down time to re-energize and reflect.
9. We don't remember what you tell us on Sunday. Please, email us or write it down.
10. We make mistakes. Yes, indeed. Forgive us when we do. Love us anyway.