Late last week, an idea for a blog posting came to me: Pastors Day.
‘There’s a Mother’s Day, a Father’s Day, an Administrative Professionals’ Day (formerly Secretaries’ Day) and even a Groundhog Day. There oughta be a Pastor’s Day!’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ll write a blog posting about it – as a token of my appreciation for the pastors I know.’
So I sat down at the computer and banged out most of what’s written below. Then, this morning, it occurred to me that there might already be a Pastor’s Day; I’d better Google it, lest I call for the creation of something that already exists.
As it turns out, Clergy Appreciation Day has been on the books since 1992. And coincidentally (or not?), it’s the second Monday in October – yesterday, to be exact!
(Obviously, this is an American invention, or the observance wouldn’t have been tacked onto Thanksgiving – where it’s doomed to perpetual overshadowing.) But apparently, October is also Pastor Appreciation Month, so we haven’t missed the boat on saying thanks to our clergymen and -women yet.
But what an interesting coincidence that I was thinking of writing about Pastor’s Day on Clergy Appreciation Day – an observance of which I was entirely unaware. In hindsight, though, I’m not sure the term ‘coincidence’ applies.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on those unsung holy heroes we call clergy:
When I was little, I thought being a professional clergyman would be a great gig.
After all, you get a free house, everyone treats you with reverence, and you only work one day a week!
Now that I’m big, I know better.
Manses and rectories are headed the way of the dodo, for starters. And in many cases, pastors who work in parishes with rectories are paid less. There’s no free lunch, as they say.
Secondly, pastors are never really off the clock. Aside from their regular duties, everything that needs to be done, but isn’t being handled by the members of their flocks is THEIR job!
But most importantly, being treated with reverence all the time ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, because you’re always held at arm’s length. That would be the toughest part of the job, I think.
That and that itchy, plastic collar.
When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally have the ‘minister’ (we Anglicans don’t use that word that way anymore – all Christians are ministers; the guys and gals in robes are pastors or priests) over for coffee now and then. It was really an exercise in deceit – benignly intended, to be sure, but still deceit.
The house was spotless (to be fair, it was always spotless when company came over, not just clergy). We kids dressed up and were warned to be on our best behaviour. Coffee and cookies were served on the china cabinet dishes. Life was fine, our family was fine, the kids were doing fine in school with fine friends, Dad’s job was fine and the dog was fine.
Here’s a guy whose job is to connect honestly with people – who’s morally, ethically and legally bound to keep our secrets – to talk and pray us through our troubles. And when he visits, we refuse to show him our true selves. We do all we can to act like we don’t need him.
Like we don’t need Jesus.
Things have arguably come a long way since those days, but not when it comes to non-Christians. At a social gathering, if you’re having a decent small-talky conversation with a stranger and they ask what you do, if you say ‘Pastor,’ you’re likely to hear, ‘Really? That’s nice. I’m going to stand over there now.’
Back on the Believer side of the fence, I like to think I’m one of the good ones. I can joke around with my pastor; I’d even call him a friend. I’d use that f-word to describe my relationship with several other people of the cloth I know, too. But in truth, I’m still a bit more guarded with them than I am with non-clergy friends.
Inviting a pastor’s family over for dinner is dicey for me, because they can’t very well decline invitations from their parishioners – whether they’re interested in hanging out with us or not. I don’t want to inflict my boorish dullness on people who can’t avoid it without violating the rules of etiquette, morality and professionalism, so I avoid issuing the invitation.
What’s worse, when one of them gives a particularly potent sermon or blog that makes me squirm because it hits hard and close to home, I find it hard to look them in the eye. How could they want to be friends with me, when I so regularly fall so far short of the life to which I’m called? I unconsciously keep my distance from them, because their words cut to the quick and I don’t feel like being reminded of my shortcomings.
I need to remember that I can’t escape the message, and I can’t run away from the One who sent it. Keeping my pastor at arm’s length is nothing more than shooting the messenger.
Your pastor isn’t your judge, he’s your Fed-Ex guy. You wouldn’t be nervous about having the Fed-Ex guy over for dinner, would you?
So thanks, Stephen, Jonathan, Brad, the other Jonathan and Terry. I appreciate you, and I’ll try to do better on looking past the collar and to the man behind it, from now on.
Peace be with you.