Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On watching the royal wedding

I am always an early riser, but my wife, normally a more sensible, temperate soul, climbed out of bed on April 29 at what was a very early hour for her (though I am routinely kicking around at that time) and planted herself in place to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot.  I had no choice but to join her.

Well, to put it in “Upper Midwestern,” it wasn’t that bad.  Nice wedding, nicely done.  Dignified.  Neat.  Traditional.  No sixteen bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Nobody appeared to be drunk.  No overtaxed soloist trying to work a hip hop song into the liturgy.  As nearly as I could tell, the families were getting along okay.  And I loved Matt Lauer’s comment about the Archbishop of Canterbury: “That guy’s got a set of pipes on him.”

Still, occasionally my mind wandered.  Normally at that hour of the morning I would be in front of the TV set working on a fitness routine.  Part of me was feeling guilty about missing my workout, while another part of me was quite willing to accept the day off.  So the royal wedding …and fitness…playing in my mind at the same time.

If a person would happen to be a member of the British Royal Family, money would be no object.  No education debt.  No worries about retirement.  You would have money.  Enough money to hire people to do the things you would prefer not to do: cut the grass, wash the car, do the laundry, clean the house, cook the meals, figure the taxes…the sometimes-odious chores of life.  Maybe it isn’t even money; maybe it is just power.  If you’re the queen, all you have to do is tell somebody to do something, and chances are they will do it.

But fitness: you’ve got to do that one for yourself.  Prince William can’t hire somebody to do his workout for him.  The Queen cannot order some minion to take her walk for her.  Kate may have married a prince, but the royal footmen will not eat her green vegetables for her.  (For all I know Kate might love green vegetables.  I’m just making a point here.)  These things you have to do for yourself.

So here’s this gang of people who are the focus of the activity of the Contextual Learning office.  Call them interns.  Out in congregations (most of them), working with experienced pastor-supervisors and wise lay leaders, learning to be pastors themselves.  Like fitness, this is a very individual activity.  You can watch your supervisor: we hope you are.  You can imitate your supervisor: not necessarily a bad thing.  You can decide that if there is one kind of pastor you don’t want to be, it is the kind of pastor your supervisor is; you wouldn’t be the first intern to come to that conclusion.  The Lay Committee is giving you discerning feedback. Through this whole process you are working out for yourself the kind of pastor you are going to be.  Nobody else can figure that out for you.  People can write books and teach classes, but you have to take what seems valuable to you from those books and classes and appropriate it into yourself.  (Reading books about fitness will not make you fit.)

That’s probably the main thing a person works on during internship: learning more about what a pastor does, and figuring out a personal pastoral identity.  A solitary task, one you have to do for yourself even with crowds of people cheering you on, but a necessary task.  I hope our interns have been working on it, our supervisors and lay committees coaching them and cheering for them along the way.

By the way: you’ll spend the rest of your life working on this!

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