Pearl "dropped" in to see me.
She thought I was one of those pastors who works on the weekends and spends the rest of the time in wonder, love, praise, and sanctuary floral arrangements (I missed the seminary course on the last three!).
I think some folks reimagine there's a sign in front of the church that says, "Don't worry about making an appointment to see me. I ain't doin' nothin' anyhow. Matter o' facts, I gots this big jug o' lemonade on me desk for folks who wants to deliver me from my havin' nothin' to do so ya'll come on in 'cause I ain't doin'..."
That is true for some pastors who don't do anything until it catches up with 'em; and then they just move to the next...
Of course, there are other pastors - I hope and pray to be one of 'em - who are always available for people with real needs rather than those just needin' an object of pathological transference or someone to say it's O.K. to use oil-filled rather than wax candles in the chapel.
Unless I'm with somebody else in a crisis or having an occasional visitation with my family, I am available to our family of faith and community (police chaplain and pastor who still makes hospital visits more than when it's convenient and there's nothing really important going on like an ecclesiastical meeting to dialogue on how we can make more room for apostasies) 24/7/365.
Anyway, I had been ordained for only about five years when Pearl showed up.
I don't know why people have this idea that they can say whatever the hell (literally) they want to say to their pastors and get away with it.
Maybe it's because we've got this reputation of agreeing with the last person that we've talked to or being so spineless that we don't hold people accountable for their irregularities.
Speaking of irregularities, I remember the shrink who diagnosed those irregulars: "Problem people in the church are usually constipated. That's why they dump on you."
Be that as it is, Pearl got right into it: "I hate your beard."
I said nothing about her brushed suede powder blue pants suit that looked like an advertisement for the next horse show or her perfume which could drop a bull at 50 paces; just employing a favorite pastoral retort, "You hate my beard."
She went on to say that my beard reminded her of her son and she had a hard time worshipping because when she looked at my beard...
I'm no shrink; so like most pastors, I did the weenie thing and said I'd shave it off if it helped her to worship.
It seemed like a small sacrifice; and, besides, that perfume was really starting to get to me.
When I saw her approaching me after worship the following Sunday, I braced myself for a gushing of gratitude.
She took my hand, looked me in the eyes in a way that reminded me of Miss Pratt the rat in first grade, patted my hand (Watch out!), and said in a not so subtle passive-aggressive kind of way, "Now about your moustache."
That's when I remembered Charlie Cummings who was pastor of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Donegal Presbytery (Pennsylvania).
He and FMPC left the PCUSA in the early 80s over human sexuality issues.
I always thought that was kinda ironic.
Be that as it was, he was my age now (56 but really 57 if you count time in the womb which I do because God does) back then when I was 25 and freshly ordained.
We were in some kind of pastoral support group where pastors get together to banter and moan about how awful it is to be a pastor.
I almost forgot what he said one day until Pearl came into my life: "I walked up the steps to bed last night after a session meeting, threw up my arms to Jesus, and cried, 'Take me now, Lord, because my life is better to you than anybody down here!'"
I think he went home to Jesus not too long ago.
Pastor Appreciation Month was last month (every October).
We've moved to Pastor Is An _____ & Convenient Conduit for Our Pathological Transferences Month (every other month).
Just being serious for a, uh, change.
Parenthetically, I feel appreciated.
Not really but kinda appreciated.
I got some really nice cards and goodies from some folks; though there were some glaring omissions that also caught my attention.
Of course, going back to The Diary of a Country Priest, I didn't get into this to be liked or, uh, appreciated; for as the old priest says to the young priest in the book, we're called to be salt not honey: "Salt stings on an open wound but saves you from gangrene."
Jesus said something about that in His really big sermon in Matthew 5-7.
Before I publish some subscriber comments about PAM/PIA_&CCFOPT months, I would like to say a lot of my fun ended (aka honeymoon) when we started our building campaign.
That's when the folks who never really liked me or liked the interim or some predecessor better began to come up with rationalizations for...
If you're a pastor subscriber, you know what I mean.
I know what it means.
I'm staying until the minority that hates me becomes the majority.
Even though I've been sorely tempted recently, my call to my call is increasingly strong and permanent; and, more than less, I do feel appreciated.
Please don't tell anyone about the last clause of the last sentence because I don't want anyone to know I feel appreciated because it will mess up some of my hypocrisy.
Speaking of shows, one of my favorite staff members just came in and said PBHO is thinking of HRC as Secretary of State.
I thought he gave up nutty buddies.
I keep praying his record will match his reconciling rhetoric.
If he does pick HRC, London Bridge is falling down, falling down...
It will be a signal.
Back to pastors, here's one from Texas: "My favorite opening line: 'Some people are very upset about _____.' Here's the ever popular variation: 'Pastor, some people are very mad at you.' Don't you love that. It makes my day!"
Well, podnah, here's a secret. When someone comes and says some people are saying..., you're lookin' at 'em!
From Ohio: "Pastor, tell us what you think...as long as you think like me, I'll support you!"
Hey, buck up, buckeye! That's the way it is in the world; and you're in a mainline church which is as worldly as it gets! So what do you expect?
From Pennsylvania: "You REALLY want me to...I hate being called REVEREND. I'm not supposed to be any more reverent than anyone else. Is it a ploy to assuage their guilt for not being very reverent? My old barber used to call me Reverend to keep from having to remember my name. Also, don't call me the minister. According to Ephesians 4, we're all supposed to be ministers."
Psst. My buddy in California who is much more Biblical than he can share with his congregation joined me in a doctoral program for that precise reason. We felt Rev was a little too presumptive and Dr wasn't as misleading; especially in the PCUSA. Besides, when I make reservations as Dr rather than Rev, I get a better table.
From Illinois as a perfect example of why KD never identifies primary sources: "We have a group of ladies here that the staff calls 'the bitch train.' In fact, we have a sign - pulling on the invisible cord of a train whistle - to let other staff members know if one or more is in the office. They stifle conversation, suck the joy out of our ministry, and make the ordinary laughter of our office disappear into a pool of gripes, grunts, and rolled eyes."
She/he continues: "I realize there are people like this in every home, neighborhood, and church, but here is what bugs me the most. They are upheld - and present themselves - as the hardest workers and most reliable members of the church. Others just shake their heads or even laugh when we share stories about their misguided ways, and say things like, 'Well, you know ____' or 'She's always been that way' or 'It's tough to get old' or (my favorite) 'she's earned the right to bitch.'"
She/he concludes: "No amount of preaching, modeling, or even threatening will persuade these ladies to stop their complaining, passive-aggressive sweetness on the outside, and their penchant for being self-appointed prophets."
A P.S. from her/him: "One of them gave oatmeal to me for PAM because she wanted me to take care of my health. Two weeks later she brought ten times more stress into my life by spreading rumors that I had stomped out of a meeting. Some help. I'm going to stop because the call sometimes conflicts with how pissed off I feel about being a pastor in today's church where we suffer fools so gladly."
No comment. I'm crying too much to see the, uh, keys.
From Pittsburgh: "Only one church treated me well consistently. It was the church where my predecessor committed suicide."
People like to shoot the messenger.
I catch a lot of hell (literal) for provoking thought about walking the talk of Biblical Christianity more than just pretending for reasons unrelated to the reality of eternal destinies at stake.
I can take it; and I'm still marketable.
I know I'm called.
It's killing me.
Some like it that way.
Sorry for telling the truth.
Blessings and Love!