I have found myself missing the opportunity to think aloud here mostly because all too often what I post here is over scrutinised and I have had my figures burned here and elsewhere on SocMed.
Anyway, someone I follow on Facebook and Twitter shared what I'm going to share below because it resonated with them. It focusses on the stresses and strains and joys of being in public ministry. I am fearful off sharing it here in a way because for me at least, to a greater of lesser degree, it tells it as it is.
I have been ordained for 16 years and served in 3 parishes over that time. Over those years I have discovered that what I thought priestly ministry was has been smashed into smithereens by God and in it's place He has written something new within me which has been the most profoundly challenging and simultaneously wonderful experience with the people of God to boot. Hmmm... Dear Reader, I suspect people will read too much into all of that too...
Anyway, I'm sharing below the piece from Fr. Marcus Halley's blog 'Black and White and Living in Colour' because it echoes my experience in many ways. For those of you who aren't ordained or serving in public ministry in some other way, or those of you are members of congregations that I have served or currently serve I'm sorry if this offends you (no really I am!), but for me at least, welcome to part of my world...
If you’re seriously considering becoming a pastor, think again.
Entering this ministry will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. You are signing up for the possibility of working incredibly long hours and will need to develop and maintain safe boundaries both for yourself and your community. If you’re lucky you’ll be paid. If you’re really lucky you’ll be paid enough to support yourself and your family (if you have one). You will have to manage unrealistic expectations from every direction, including within, and you will have to say “no” sometimes. You will encounter incredibly difficult personalities who will project onto you every grievance they have towards God. You will think about quitting once a month and at some point it might become a weekly consideration. You’ll encounter the shadow side of the Church – the place where sexism, classism, racism, homophobia, and general human brokenness lurk (to varying degrees depending on where you serve). You’ll be tempted towards snark over vulnerability and stubbornness over conversion. You will have your strength and patience tested far beyond anything you have faced. You will have the button of your deepest insecurity pressed over and over again. You’ll be made to feel insignificant by the shear size of it all. You will feel a deep sense of loneliness sometimes. You will have friends who will walk away from you… and it will hurt. You will disappoint people. You will disappoint yourself. You will feel constrained by the vows you take upon yourself. You will give your life to it and wonder if it makes any difference at all. You will encounter unspeakable pain and you will cry many tears.
If you’re considering ordination as a pastor, think again…
…and then, for the love of God, say “yes.”
We may see humanity, even ourselves, at our worst, but we also get to see God at God’s absolute best. Sure, there are great difficulties ahead and no amount of seminary or mentoring can prepare you for most of it, but you are also entering that beautiful journey with God where every difficult moment is accompanied by God’s grace. You will be entering a vocation where the very foundation of your calling is to rely on the strength of God to navigate difficult relationships, heart-breaking pastoral encounters, strained-budgets, general angst and anxiety, and your very own weary soul. Just when you have reached the end of your strength, God’s strength takes over. God’s strength is made perfect even in our weakness.
At the end of the day, God doesn’t call us because we are wonderful, or smart, or gifted, or worthy. Ordination as pastors and priests isn’t about us. It is about reflecting the image of Christ into our communities in ways that bear witness to the power and love of God in our midst. We are called to love everyone we encounter – those who love us, those who hate us, and those who are indifferent to our presence. All the while we point beyond ourselves to the God to whom all things journey.
The role of the priest and pastor is to model what every single Christian is called into – a life of total surrender. Like Peter, we will go places where never wanted to go. Like Paul, we will be changed in dramatic ways. Like Jesus himself, we will bear a cross that will cause us to stumble. This ministry is a cross that leaves its redeeming mark on our shoulders as we follow the pilgrim’s path to salvation and abundant life and God’s grace is sufficient even in our stumbling.
The ordained life is a beautiful life, one of great challenge and greater joy and we get to see both, up close and personal.
If you’re considering ordination as a pastor, think about it long and hard. Like the man who builds a tower or the king who leads an army, consider the cost.
And then say yes to God who calls you and promises to go with you even in the most unclear places.
Maybe you can’t do this. That’s okay. Because God can.