Happy Clergy Appreciation Day!
I’m a pastor’s daughter – a female pastor’s daughter to be precise – so I have gotten the question for ages, “Are you gonna be a pastor when you grow up?” Of course now that I’m old enough that it would be rude to say “when you grow up” (though I certainly don’t feel grown up), I get the statement, “You should be a minister.” Now that I’m attending a church of my own rather than attending the church my mom is currently serving, many people don’t realize who my mother is, so they usually offer a reason for their perception of my calling. It typically goes something like this: “You have a great voice – you should be a minister!”
While I am certainly flattered that people seem to enjoy when I’m the liturgist/lay leader in church, I find this exclamation a little problematic. When they say I have a great voice, they are referring to my ability to speak in public. I attribute this skill to three things.
1. I have a naturally slightly lower voice that lends itself to grabbing people’s attention easily (or at least we live in a society where we have been socialized to listen to lower voices).
2. I practice. Seriously. Everything I read aloud in church, I’ve gone over out loud at least two or three times.
3. I have two degrees in communication and spent the past 4 years coaching a competitive speech and debate team. I literally do this for a living.
To compliment me for things that either are a reflection of our society’s priorities or are a reflection of my training and career, seems unfair to others who also devote their time and energy to being lay leaders but who might have a naturally higher voice (and should not have to change it for people to listen) or simply don’t have public speaking coaching. They do, however, possess many other gifts that I do not.
But what really concerns me is equating having a great voice to being a minister. As a pastor’s daughter, I can promise you preaching is only a small portion of what most pastors do, and the belief that it is the main portion if not the entire job description is part of what (in my humble opinion) has led many churches to move toward part time pastorates. Because we believe that’s all they’ve been doing anyway.
Yes, I could preach a sermon (and have before). Yes, I can research theology, attend seminary, and learn to write a sermon. Those are gifts I do possess. But a pastor does more than preach. They attend and often lead committee meetings, visit home-centered members who may be unable to attend church, provide spiritual guidance, participate in continuing education, make hospital visits, pray over the sick, minister to the dying, officiate weddings (often of people they love), officiate funerals (also often of people they love), and on and on and on.
At this point in my life, I do not feel called to ministry. I haven’t ruled it out forever, but for now, it’s just not for me. I believe I can serve the church most effectively from the pew (and occasionally the lectern) – being a Deacon, chairing the Pastoral Nominating Committee, writing this blog, sharing thoughts and prayers with fellow Presbys (and queer Presbys!) on Twitter, etc.
As we celebrate Clergy Appreciation Day today, let’s stop to consider how the little things we say mean more than we might realize. Let’s recognize ALL of the work our pastors do by visiting the church throughout the week to see if someone needs help with anything, offering to go on a visit with the pastor or even for the pastor, sharing a cup of tea with the pastor after they’ve had a long run of funeral after funeral. Most of the pastors I’ve met and/or worked with don’t do this to preach every Sunday. They do this because they love God and they love God’s people. Let’s recognize more than their voices.