by David Moffet-Moore
This is my first blog on the Energion Discussion Network; thank you, Henry, for the opportunity. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Knote, gave us an assignment to write an essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I did not pick astronaut, fireman or cowboy. I wanted to have a Ph.D. and be a published author. Henry has been part of fulfilling that childhood fantasy. Again, thank you. Now let’s see if I have anything worth reading!
I grew up in a Methodist parsonage and learned as much about ministry by watching my Dad as I did in seminary, or at least it seems that way sometimes. Dad put in long hours, loved his church members, and bore his burdens quietly. He never returned to a church once we left it. He was always a solo pastor, never on staff or with staff. I grew up thinking of him like the Lone Ranger, except without Tonto. Each episode ended with him riding out of town on Trigger, saying “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” and then, “Who was that masked man?” “Why, that was the Lone Ranger!”
The Lone Ranger works alone, never complains, does his job without expecting assistance or appreciation, never asks for help or seeks companionship, and, once done, never returns. My Dad was a Lone Ranger pastor; I am not! I will take all the help I can get. I readily seek out those who might have answers for my questions or solutions for my problems. I am big on being part of a team. Throughout my ministry I have recruited people with the necessary skills, with energy and commitment to do the assigned tasks, and who appreciate the opportunity to work together. One of my slogans is “Working together for the common good and the glory of God.” “TEAM” stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Ministry can be a very solitary profession and I am an extreme introvert; still, I know I need others. I depend on clergy colleagues and prioritize opportunities for fellowship with other clergy. We are social creatures and I believe we are born needing one another.
Genesis 2:18 records, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’” Jesus, though being God in the flesh, still gathered others around him, to eat and travel, sleep and live together as his disciples. Even God has companionship in the doctrine of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In his mission travels, Paul depended on the company of others: Barnabas, Silas, Luke and Timothy.
The only place I know where scripture defines an individual Christian is 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Paul defines us individually based upon our membership in the body, emphasizing the intimacy of our unity, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26)
In undergraduate, I took a course in the role of the frontier on our American psyche. One of the lessons we learned was the myth of rugged individualism. Even on the frontier, people found ways to socialize and support one another: barn raisings, quilting bees, harvesting together. Even the mountain men gathered for their regular ‘Rendezvous.’ We are a people who find our individuality while gathered in community.
I was in a two-year course in spirituality titled, “The Academy for Spiritual Formation.” It was sponsored by the Upper Room in Nashville, Tennessee. One of our speakers was a Greek Orthodox priest and professor. The Upper Room has a large chapel and beside it a smaller prayer chapel, with a sign over the door, “Alone with God.” When the priest saw it, he spontaneously laughed. “Alone with God? How can one ever be alone with God? With God, we are with all the saints and angels in glory! With God, we are never alone!”
So, when I am not at a colleague group, not attending a conference, or sharing with a fellow pastor, when I am studying for the sermon, or struggling late at night with a problem, I remember: with God, I am never alone. As great as my need is, God’s grace is greater still, and by that grace I will never be alone. Thanks be to God!
I’ll end with an advertisement: I urge you to check out the Academy of Parish Clergy, an international and interfaith association of parish professionals. We emphasize personal growth, professional development and mutual support. With regional colleague groups, an annual conference and a quarterly journal, it’s a way for us to support one another even when we are separated. www.apclergy.org.
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