Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Confidentiality

The AngloBaptist directed me to this post, over at Confessions of a Small church pastor. I am not interested in talking about here the specific cases he presents (You can read my own thoughts on that in my comment on the post) but it touches on something that has been an interesting conundrum in being a pastor who also has a blog, and wants to share his life with friends and family who live far away.

Unlike one of the people who commented on the above post, both the seminaries I attended were big on teaching about confidentiality and pastoral responsibility. So, both as pastor and spiritual director when people come to me for spiritual conversation I do not even consider speaking of what is said in our sessions not even to my wife. This means that my own life and sizable portion of experiences are other peoples stories and lives that I cannot speak about.

I first experienced the degree of this situation this past September when we met up with a friend who we had not seen since we left LA. He was part of the poetry scene we were part of in LA. He regaled us with stories of things he was involved with and people he was doing things with. It was exciting and cool to hear all he was doing. I also had various things from the community, to spiritual direction to pastoring Reconciler, but so much of the detail of all that I am involved with and doing are not my stories. I carry with me the stories of so many people, while some of it is public and things I could share even those public things touch on stuff I can't tell. It was a strange feeling as I briefly told him what I was doing. The telling of it was gray and flat because I am not my own: what I do is hold peoples lives up to God that they may journey ever more closely to God.

There are many thoughts insights things I have learned about human being, about theology and pastoring that I'd like to share here on this blog, but they come from the trust and willingness of those who I pastor and direct to open themselves up to me in the presence of God, confident I will not speak of what they bring. They come tome confident I will respect their stories and journeys as their own and not mine even as I take those things into myself and bring them before God. At some point I hope to disentangle the insights and thoughts I have in relation to my interactions with those I pastor, and be able to work through some of the theology that emerges out of these encounters. Of late that explains my intermittent posting here as much anything else. What I really want to post here, the things I'd love to reflect on here and see what if any conversation might come from it, is entangled with confidences. My life and thoughts are not simply my own, what I say here does and can effect those with whom and for whom I minister. Oddly enough confidentiality means I can't even speak about myself as freely as I would have done before becoming a pastor, spiritual director and prior.

I think many pastors experience this as loneliness. Or at least I have always been puzzled by the speech about how lonely it is to be a pastor. I don't see it as lonely because I am so present to so many people in ways I would not be if I were not a pastor. There is though a weight of the responsibility I have been given, and much of that is in what I speak or write, even, perhaps especially about myself, as myself takes in the lives and stories of others such that I do not belong to myself alone.