Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Stop the presses!

I wrote an article for this newsletter a few days ago. It seemed good at the time. I am grateful that we didn’t go to press right then, because it soon became a totally inappropriate article–and I pulled it. Why?

I was using the then-forming Hurricane Sandy and as illustrative material for a point I wanted to make. The point doesn’t matter now, but had Sandy been a typical storm, it would have been an okay article.

However, Sandy grew beyond all expectations. As it became clear there would be catastrophic loss across a large area, I realized I could not publish what I had written. It was all wrong. The only appropriate words regarding the storm would be words of compassion, prayer, help, lament–but certainly not my waxing philosophical (or theological) by using the storm as launching pad for my wisdom.

I encourage you to join me in prayers–and whatever help we can muster–for those who have suffered pain and loss. I imagine you have been doing that all along, and will continue to do so. In particular we remember our interns and supervisors and their congregations, as well as former interns and supervisors, in the impacted areas.

P.S.  Perhaps you can indulge one reflection. This may happen to you, too, sometime. Perhaps it will be an article, perhaps a comment, perhaps a joke, perhaps a plan–something that was perfectly appropriate when you wrote, said, or conceived of it. And then the situation can change. You may learn of a deep pain, a scenario may turn tragic, or you may have misgauged the extent of something.

It might be an obvious thing, as when I cheerfully popped into a hospital room to congratulate the new mom, only to discover the baby had just died. It might be more subtle, as when you make a light-hearted comment or joke and see pain spread across the face of a parishioner. I don’t know what the specifics will be. But those times will come.

When they do, I hope you have the luxury of not printing as I did with the article. But if not, I pray you have the humility and grace to say, “I didn’t realize; I’m sorry,” and start anew. Ministry is wonderful, but it isn’t easy; may God be with us all.

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