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What I learned in my first six weeks as a pastor

October 3, 2012

–When I promised the pastor nominating committee that I would find time to blog as frequently as I did before, I meant it. But I did not know what I was talking about.

— The people in my church are good cooks. I mean they are really good cooks. And they like the pastor and his family to be well fed.  Because I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, and previous pastors were not, one of our handy members showed up one day and heightened the pulpit. I fear it will soon have to be widened, too.

— When one of the associate general presbyters told me before I started that I would need a vacation after my first month, he knew what he was talking about.

— I’m just as broken a human being as I ever was, despite the robe and the stole and all the accoutrements of ministry. I am ever aware of the need to resist the temptation to be made into someone I am not.  May I always remain aware.

— Changing the way the congregation has traditionally taken communion was a bad idea. Phoning or emailing every member of the church on her birthday was a good idea. (Someone emailed me saying he had been unable to come to church for a long time, but after receiving a birthday greeting felt just as valuable as those who come every Sunday. That alone made it worthwhile.)

— The unexpected happens.  I received a phone call while on the way to the football game with my family informing me that a longtime member of the church had suddenly died. Just a few days earlier I had received an early morning text that another longtime member had died.  So I needed to console two families and plan two memorial services in two weeks.  I had to trust God’s guidance and do what seemed right to an extent I had not before.

–My colleagues in ministry are only a phone call or an email away. You know who you are. Thank you.

— Parishioners give me things. Baseball tickets.  High school football tickets. Lawn mowers. Stuff like that. This is a whole new experience. I told my nearly 90-year-old mother about it the other day. She says she has witnessed this phenomenon over many years in the Church. “They love their pastor,” she says.  Baffling.

— I’m prone to the same mistakes. And, like everybody else, I need to be reminded that Jesus is just as forgiving.

— I don’t know a lot of things, but my administrative assistant does.

— I will get frustrated from time to time when I preach the Word and I don’t see people responding in the way that I believe they should with their lives. Then, I will remember that I am not responsible for that last part.

–There was not much bigger relief than realizing the ordination service was over, the installation service was over and I had no more special services to plan.

–I finally appreciate CPE (clinical pastoral education). I hated it at the time, could not wait for it to be over, and was ready to start a fistfight with anyone who even mildly suggested that I was called as a chaplain.  But, now, whenever I have to go into a hospital room, or stand at the bedside of someone who is dying, I know I have been there before and will be able to do what needs to be done.

–There is no greater opportunity to really learn about people than when you are at their bedside in a hospital. And it is never clearer that whatever divides us is miniscule compared to what we have in common.

–The demands are such that there is no time to practice self-care, and yet it has never been more needed. I need time away. That time has to be created, and because the people love their pastor, they will help.

— Preaching is easier when you have to do it every Sunday. Of course, that’s not true. Nothing about preaching is easy. It has to be approached with fear and trembling and a sense of overwhelming responsibility – and complete confidence. But what I mean is I more readily receive the message and can deliver it more clearly on Sunday because it is born out of relationships.  It was much more difficult to write an occasional sermon as a supply preacher, speaking to congregations I did not know. God provides.

— Last Sunday, shortly before 11, I was in my office getting ready for the service. I overheard the closing prayer of the Sunday school class next door and realized they were praying for me. I don’t have words.

–I still don’t really know this congregation yet. Sometimes I think I do, and then I find out that I do not. Things happen that have meaning, and I miss them or do not understand. Then I remember I had pledged to be patient while we get to know each other. And that takes time, for them and me. In the meantime, God provides.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 11:16 am

    What a blessing you are!

  2. October 3, 2012 2:29 pm

    Matt, there is no better servant than a humble one. You are definitely that! Keep up the wonderful work you do and never stop learning. Blessings

  3. John and Arlene Hamilton permalink
    October 3, 2012 3:13 pm

    Matt,  It will be much harder to widen the pulpit.  Let’s work to apply some pastoral care time to you so that isn’t necessary.  John


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