I was perusing the synod newsletter and noticed that a congregation where I interviewed back in May is STILL interviewing. I thought I would have been a good pastor for them. Yes I understand the Holy Spirit and all that and it wasn't meant to be. And I could accept that they found someone else that they thought was more suitable. But to discover they are STILL looking? Come on. NOBODY is that special.
I become more and more convinced of something that crossed my mind several years ago. This searching for the perfect match between pastor and congregation with both parties filling out pages and pages of profiles with boxes for this strength or that has not served either pastors or congregations well.
The second call I took in Birnamwood Wisconsin, the bishop gave the congregation my name and they called me, sight unseen. I stayed there 9 years, the longest I've stayed anywhere.
The myth of the "perfect" match has set up both congregation and pastor for disappointment. It has led us away from unconditional love. It has made us focus on ourselves and made it seem as though OUR personal desires, likes, dislikes, passions and even strengths are what matter. I think it is part of the problem of expecting pastors to do more than the traditional (dare I say CONFESSIONAL?) ministry of Word and Sacrament which is what ordained ministry is all about. Pastor's strengths should be Word and Sacrament and if they aren't then they need to be weeded out of seminary. It's nice that you have other passions but it's not about your passions, it's about SERVANTHOOD.
Same with the congregation. It's nice that you have a small group ministry but you don't need a pastor to lead that. You need a pastor to preach and teach the word, administer the sacraments and I'll throw in visit the sick with that. There is no perfect congregation or pastor. Too bad. Learn to live with and love them anyway. It's like having children. You get what you get and you love them. Period.
Yes I know. People who live in a culture that offers 17 brands of cornflakes expect choice when it comes to their pastor as well. And I suppose pastors get picky too. I wouldn't know. As a woman I've ALWAYS felt grateful that someone was willing to give me a try. There were a couple of REALLY unhealthy situations that I ran away from. But I never turned down a congregation because it wasn't a "good match"
I think this is a situation where we need to go against culture. I know the Methodists did this for years and have given it up because it lead to "mediocrity" Supposedly. I don't believe it. I think the Bishops just got tired of hearing both pastors and congregations complain that they didn't have more cornflakes to choose from.
So don't make it Law. Just makes the forms simpler. Talk more about grace, unconditional and sacrificial love, and less about strengths and "good matches". I think we'd all be better for it.