Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pastor as Bricoleur or Professional

This morning I am off to work at U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project. Charity one of the members of Reconciler works there and they have about a day's worth of data entry work. To pay the bills while pastoring at Reconciler I am a temporary office worker. A couple of times now that not only has meant working in similar environments to the people I pastor but also working with (and in this case for) one of my parishioners.

There is in this all the dangers of dual/multiple roles and relationships I was warned to avoid at all cost in seminary. I appreciate now more thane ever those cautions, and being taught the dangers, but I questioned then and even more so now the underlying assumption of some of those warnings and proscriptions, on what sort of relationships to have and not have with members of a local congregation. Much of these proscriptions come from a certain view of professionalism. A professional is to be distant from those she serves. Professionals are those that are paid to do things with expertise. A professional is to be an expert, an authority by virtue of greater training skill and expertise. It seems to me though that in truth there is nothing truly professional about the ordained ministry of the church. To be a minister of Word and Sacrament is not to be an expert, and is certainly not to be professionally distanced from the people of God. Rather it is to be more intimately connected to the life of the people of God.

Surely there is distance created by being set apart and taking on a certain care for the body of Christ, and their is the distance that leading, even characterized (rightly) as servant-leadership, creates. yet this is not the distance of the professional.

My denomination is currently debating what qualifies one to be ordained to Word and Sacrament. Can people in my position as a bi-vocational pastor qualify for ordination. Which seems strange to me for this debate to exist among us who look to Saint Paul for so much. Was he not an apostle? Did he not work in the same market place as those to whom he ministered to as apostle? Did he not support himself as a tent maker? The answer to all of these is yes.

I also understand the desire for "professionalism" in the ministry. And frankly I'd like to be able to have my energies more focused, my time less divided, and my thoughts a little less scattered. But then if I am a minister of the Gospel in a specific and specified way, if I am set aside to Word and Sacrament, should I not also be willing to give up the comforts of status to be with God's people in the world. Is not in fact a Pastor in the church more of a bricoleur than a professional. And while it may be a good and justified thing for a minister of the Gospel to earn a living by the Gospel: In the end it is being with and in the world that should characterize such a minister and not being a "professional". It is not professional distance but the sacrificing presence of God incarnate, who gave everything that we may have life, that is our model and our standard. Standards of ministers should reflect more Saint Paul and Jesus Christ then current notions of professionalism and expertise.

It is certainly helpful to know the pitfalls of this being with and the potential abuses that I was taught in seminary as I was being molded into a "professional" minister. Now if we can only keep those insights and leave aside professionalism and embrace bricolage.