Saturday, September 22, 2007

I am/am not a minister

I just got back from a cruise where I met hundreds of new people. Everyone asks where you're from and what do you do. It's polite conversation. I would answer "Los Angeles" and "a minister," which was always good for a conversation starter. "Really?" people would invariably wonder. I don't look or act like most people's image of a minister (particularly while on vacation), nor would most people think to find clergy taking their holiday with their same sex partner on a cruise with 1800 gay men.

Being a minister is both my job and also, because of ordination who I am. I would still be a minister even if I left the church and took a job at starbucks or the post office. But I've noticed in the course of my ministry and particularly as I have moved from one church to a second that I'm emphasizing now more the aspect of ministry that is something I do rather than who I am. I think this is a healthy shift. It's partly possible because I serve a very well-functioning church that doesn't require a lot of pushing and dragging from me to move toward our goals. And it's also a personal sense that I want to honor the other roles in my life equally with my ministry: my roles as husband, artist, writer, activist, athlete, and so on.

Ministry provides a temptation and a danger to ministers to over-identify with the role. It feeds the ego and returns a great sense of belonging and value. But it also leads to a lack of separation between the church and minister. The minister suffers from over work and neglect of personal life. And the church suffers from a minister who doesn't give them space to do the ministry they could do for themselves, and who doesn't model healthy self care or return to them the benefits of a balanced life.

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