Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Required Reading: A Year of Visiting Churches

Go check out this blog, by a man who's visiting all the religious communities in his neighborhood over the coming year. He recently went to an MCC church and found that the people there were less like Will and Grace and more like those seeking to know God's will and live in God's grace.

He's also been to a number of other churches, as well as a mosque. He is gracious, honest, and saves his harshest critiques for those whom I suspect he feels the closest theological affinity. But there's a lot of charity and grace in every post. I'm totally sucked in!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Appreciating My Colleagues

I realized that my last few posts may be interpreted as "bashing" my clergy colleagues here. I knew I'd be the odd one out when I moved here, but I didn't realize by how much. It is truly challenging, and sometimes a little draining, to be the only clergy voice for progressive Christianity (or heck, even "middle-of-the-road" Christianity, for the most part), but I've accepted my role as a missionary for theological liberalism here. And, for the most part, it's well-received - at least to my face.

And while it's true that there is a lot of theological disagreement among us, it's also true that when we are face-to-face, at least, "Iowa nice" prevails. While I don't love all that "Iowa nice" is and means, I do find that I appreciate how it allows us to work together on what we can agree upon, and not waste all our time bickering over points of doctrine about which we'll never agree.

So, today I want to share some things I really cherish about my clergy colleagues in this community. All of these are snark-free:

1. We spend our time together focusing on what we can agree upon, not the many things that divide us.
2. We work to feed the hungry and provide spiritual nourishment to one another's members in a variety of ecumenical services throughout the year.
3. My colleagues "play nice" when they speak at our church for the Lenten Luncheon series (and they know I will, too, when I speak at their churches).
4. My fellow women ministers and I have some special bonds that have allowed us to peel back "Iowa nice" to discuss some of our differences rather frankly and respectfully, and to grow in genuine friendship and collegiality. There's a couple of services that our three churches do that "the guys" don't seem interested in. (More's the pity.)
5. My colleagues keep me honest, and help ground me in the text. We don't come to the same conclusions, but we draw from that common well.
6. We are genuinely interested in each other's personal lives - we rejoice when there is cause to rejoice, and we lift each other up in prayer in times of difficulty. (I wish we shared more, but I'm grateful for what we do share.)
7. We support some of each other's ministries, such as food pantries and soup kitchens. (I hope they'll also support a new mission venture we'll be starting soon.)
8. I am grateful that there are other churches besides ours in the community, because I know our church is not a perfect fit for all Christians. I'm grateful that I can say some true and wonderful things about my colleagues to those Christians who are looking for something we can't provide.
9. My colleagues welcomed our sabbatical pastor with open arms and truly made her feel welcome this summer.
10. I'll soon have a clergy colleague who is also pretty theologically progressive, and I look forward to our growing in faith, service, and perhaps joint ventures with our congregations!! I hope we can be a balm and boon for each other.

For my clergy friends, what do you appreciate about your colleagues and partners in ministry? And for my lay friends, what do you appreciate about collegial relationships among clergy leaders in your communities?