It's my day off and I should be paying bills and cleaning my house, but as I was wasting time on Facebook I got myself a little worked up.
One of my greatest pet peeves -- is the complaining I hear so very often in the church. I get it. Seriously- I do. And I know I'm Pollyanna and all that, but I understand the need to let off steam. Yet what really bothers me is that we-- mainly clergy- complain about the same things -- all the time. Have we prayed about it as much as we've complained? Have we offered to productively and effectively engage in helpful ways as much as we have complained? Have we considered the hard work and intentionality of those who are working behind the scenes who we are often taking for granted?
I guess this is striking a chord for me today- because of the shutdown and I have heard so many people say things like "The shut down really isn't affecting anyone" or "those folks in Washington don't really do anything." For me- - those folk aren't bureaucrats who do nothing-- they are my friends and former parishioners who serve, protect, and care deeply about their country and her citizenry. Its easy to complain when you don' t know the people personally. But they are people who work hard and care passionately.
So-- perhaps my ability to let one more clergy ranting on FB go is kind of soaked up by the last 10 days of the shutdown.
When clergy get together -we have to let out stem-- that is good and important- our time together should be renewing, life giving, and give us energy for the call we share. I especially feel this way when I gather with clergy women friends, covenant and prayer groups- there is laughter and joy and it is spiritually uplifting.
Yet there are several times when I gather with clergy and I hear complaining- lots of complaining- that leads no where usually about -- the ordination process or boards, agencies, and apportionments....
And this where I am am just done.
Stop complaining and get engaged.
We are Methodist- like it or not- and well-- I pretty much love it most of the time.
I love our ecclesiology and our connection and I love that there is an ordination process that cares deeply about the clergy person and the churches where they get sent. I love that we are not alone. There is no parachute. You are not left alone unless you choose to be. Your church cannot fire you. The Church invests in you deeply. If things aren't going well there are resources to help. The ordination process reveals this care and concern and commitment. Residency Events and workshops, and papers, and process are not hoops to jump through they are opportunities to grow as a clergyperson so you can do all that God has called you to do. The Church- the Conference- the Connection does not have to care this much-- but they do. They are paying for you to do all of this. (yeah you pay for a lot too-- but that reveals your commitment.... trust me I've paid for a good bit of psychological tests... yes I'm still paying student loans... yes we've got to work on that part).....
Yet in the midst of it all-- this is a vocation where God chooses and calls you and choose back.... enjoy and get all you can out of these opportunities. When we're wounded- (too often by our churches) we need each other and we have a Church Connection that is here to love us and help us through it.
Do we lose good people because of our system and polity- Yes. Is it perfect? No.
Does the "system" wound people-- yes it can be wounding... it can be hard. Is that the intention? No.
Is healing and moving through to a stronger place possible? Always.
Does our system and polity and ordination process need valued, caring, theologically astute, passionate people to engage and be part of making this better? Absolutely.
Is it moving and changing fast enough? Not always. Because trying to work together with this many people is really really hard work. But I think it's worth it.
Today I was on FB and saw discussions and complaints about how "boards and agencies are irrelevant" and they "just suck up apportionment dollars."
Instead of thinking about how boards and agencies suck away apportionments- how about utilizing them more fully in our contexts?
As a former GBGM missionary and as someone who has traveled to Mozambique, stayed at Cambine to help build the school there (through a service-learning trip with the Methodist college I attended) visited the Methodist Hospital in Chicuque and experienced seeing the comparison of the other hospital (government hospital had nothing--no separate quarters for HIV/ or TB no separate wards for women and children- no beds, no meds-- compared to UMC hospital where they had supplies, beds, separate wards and even lovely kid- friendly decorations).
If we are not seeing the relevance of these boards and agencies - if people don't see the value of apportionments and connectionalism -- perhaps its because our leadership isn't helping make that connection for them-- and we are missing a vital part of our ecclesiology
Take a group to NY, DC and do a seminar--educate our congregations about the missions that are possible- the lives that are changed-- the difference we make - all because of apportionments.
I was able to serve as a US-2 Missionary because of apportionments - where 500 homeless folks were served meals, connected with resources, and empowered. Churches throughout the area were engaged and brought into mission through this work as they were empowered and equipped to bring lunches, and come into relationship with those who are homeless to know more than a face- a name- a person- a sister/brother in Christ. Because of apportionments we come together as the Body of Christ to do awesome work of the kingdom.
There are US-2's, Mission Interns, Mission trips, seminars, agencies who serve the poor, colleges and universities, all in your own area - who exist and do the work of the kingdom all because your own church exists-- that you likely don't know about and aren't teaching your churches about. The local church is the most significant place where disciple making occurs-- and these board of agencies are the most significant ways we are sending disciples into the world in engaging, powerful, ways that change lives.
Seeking to empower women- to educate and connect women in your community with women in the world-- perhaps work through UMW and COSROW
Wonder why our faith calls us to engage in the world around us? Wondering what our faith says about ---- anything? Read and learn the Social Principles- Do a bible study on them- take a group to GBCS-- learn and grow. Do you have people in your church criticizing the "liberal" GBCS-- listen thoughtfully and and engage them compassionately. Find where they are passionate and help them live into that passion to serve Christ.
Equip your Worship Team with GBOD resources, attend the School for Congregational Development, engage your Evangelism/ Welcome team with resources.
Visit New York and take a a tour of the UN and attend a seminar, visit the chapel there that is across from the UN building. Read and prayer the UMW Prayer Calendar and send notes and prayer for missionaries. Invite a missionary to speak at your church-- local, national, international. Take your Youth Group to visit and help a mission. Teach your youth about the US-2 and Mission Intern program.
Hit by a natural disaster- or helping people who are/ were-- connect and engage and participate through UMCOR.
Name anything that is happening of any significance in the world and the Methodist church is there.
The World is our parish.
Do we have a perfect system? No-- but it is not irrelevant- and it is powerful. As United Methodist we have a particular way of understanding grace, doing church, and living mission in the world. It doesn't mean that its the best way-- or the only way- but for many of us it is where we have been called and where we feel led to passionately serve Christ and His Kingdom.
I am certainly not advocating some "if you don't like it - leave" way of thinking. I'm just tired of complaining that goes no where productive. We all need to vent- and we all need to share our ideas to make things better. But rather than constantly criticizing and complaining, perhaps we should try engaging, asking questions, learning about what we do and why and we can be part of it and part of making it better.
Yeah- I'm Pollyanna-- and I still think there's a lot to be glad about - and if not-- we should try to find a way to help- work together- and get glad.