Sunday, January 12, 2014

Get your ass in a clergy group

So, I've got my clergy group meeting tomorrow morning, and as usual, I feel great about it. It almost makes me break out in poetry, and I reserve the right to do so by the end of this post. But here's the deal: there's a crew of progressive-ish white guy clergy in my denomination in this region, and once a month we hang out together for a few hours. Maybe we should have more of an agenda, maybe we should have clear guidelines about what's going to happen and who's going to do what, but we don't. What we do have (and what makes up for what we don't have) is an abundance of love for each other. And it's pretty awesome. Basically it's me, a guy who's maybe ten years older than me, and so on, with a colleague representing every decade or so on through retirement. It's a collective wisdom, a collective grumpiness, and a collective faith of a hundred years of ministry around the table. They love some of the same things I do, they hate some of the same things I do, and they have my back in a really profound way.

So, this post is a post about gratitude, I guess, but it's also an encouragement. It doesn't really matter who they are, I think. Don't choose somebody who's supposed to be supervising you. Don't pick somebody you don't trust. Don't somebody who can't listen to you well. But other than that, I suggest you find some crew of colleagues, some random smattering of ministry-types, and get them in a room once a month. Have some silence, maybe, have some prayer, maybe, but listen to each other. And go out to lunch afterwards, I think. I was going to preface this by saying that this is advice for my fellow young-ish and/or new-ish clergy types, but I think that I actually believe this is true for everybody. Get some people who love you unabashedly, and go and talk to them about your job and vocation once a month, or at least listen to what they're saying about their jobs and vocations. I think it'll serve you well.

So, a story, to tell you what it's like: this year, we agreed to go on a retreat together. I was late coming to the retreat, like, really late, because of a pastoral crisis that came up in my church. It was a long day of ministry, and I was getting to the camp where we were staying long after dark. The others in the clergy group had been there for a few hours, and knew I was on my way. I texted them a couple of times with my progress. They were worried that I would have trouble finding the retreat house once I got to the camp, so a couple of them drove out to the main gate, and led me to the house. It was a dark and beautiful night, and I didn't know where I was going. But they had already been there, and they were driving on ahead of me. They weren't driving ahead of me, they weren't telling me what to do, but I got to watch them, and witness the headlights of the battered old minivan through the trees. They kept me from driving into the lake, at the least.

And that's what it's always like.