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April 17, 2007

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DennisS

Ed - Thanks for sharing. You lasted longer as pastor than I have thus far, though I anticipate being a pastor for the rest of my life.

In regards to the pastor representing Christ - for better or worse, this is true. If the pastor doesn't even know their name, and they've been active, that really gets to people - and they will back off their involvement or leave.

The church isn't a museum, but it seems to me that many pastors have it in their heads that they are chaplains to the dying church - rather than ministers to the living church.

There are two books which made a difference for me, and I was introduced to both of them in elective courses in seminary.

My seminary class (2005) had less than half take calls to ministry in a pastorate. Many went into specialized ministry as chaplain, educator, or went on to graduate school. About a third of the class took calls to solo pastorates.

One of my elective courses had us reading Alice Miller's "The Drama of the Gifted Child". This is specifically about psychoanalysts, but it is very transferable to the pastorate. Many go into both vocations because of something in their life - perhaps a need to fix something in our life, or in our family of origin. That was a new concept to me, and it after two days of reading I was only on page nine - as I had to stop frequently and think about this.

It stunned me to think that maybe my family called me to ministry - rather than God. Eventually I came to a better understanding of my call because of this wrestling. It helped that I attended the Rural Ministry Conference in Dubuque, as I was having trouble thinking it possible that I could be a solo pastor. I couldn't see myself as preaching every week, but I could see myself in a rural congregation, using metaphors gleaned from my years growing up on a farm. I had left the family farm many years previously.

The other book is my Jaco Hamman, "When Steeples Cry". From this I understand the need for laments.

When I got to this rural congregation, I dug into it's history. I've spoken with pastors who tell me to get out of the history books. But I am able to share some of the history from time to time, and thus people don't feel that they have to cling so tightly to their history, as the pastor knows it and appreciates it. I have grown to appreciate the need for a shared history.

There are numerous factors within the congregation which contribute to its health, and functioning. When I came here, people suggested they want a good joke each week. It was suggested that I be somewhat a cheerleader or encourager who only speaks of positive things. I'm not good at jokes, so I rarely ever say something funny from the pulpit. I preach laments - sometimes twice in a row. The closest PCUSA pastor, a "revitalization specialist" told me to get out of the history books. Yet we now recognize several historic events of the congregation each year - which gives us a special opportunity to invite folks who haven't been attending regularly. Several have rejoined the active membership.

I was told we don't have the energy to enter a float in the Christmas parade. Yet, a couple with young kids was willing. Several of the children we invited to ride on that float are now attending each week with their parents. I've gotten off subject, so will close.

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