They are weird aren’t they? I came to this realization when I began considering whether I was called to Ordered Ministry. I had always known clergy were different but as I discerned, I realized I was partially considering whether I was weird enough.
Clergy spend their time and energy talking to God. And then they talk to other people about God. And then they read about what other people say about God. And then they consider what all that means for their lives. And those around them. I mean, who else gives the omnipresent that much time and consideration?
Don’t get me wrong, I have always been Christian. I had gone through various periods of more or less church attendance, prayer practice and church involvement but I always believed. Communion had a special place in my spiritual understanding. I had chosen baptism at thirteen. I knew many faithful lay leaders who were incredibly dedicated. But clergy had dedicated their whole lives to the church. And the people in the church. And the people outside the church.
The more I paid attention, the more I realized that clergy tended to listen differently. They prioritized people over products or productivity. They worked on the weekends and during all the family holidays. They showed up when bad things happened and held space for pain, doubt, and anger. They celebrated successes, small personal victories that most people didn’t even notice. Clergy rearranged their whole week at a moment’s notice because of someone else’s crisis. And listened for hours to those that nobody else minded. What’s with that?
Obviously, clergy have many different personalities, gifts and strengths. But I have found, again and again, that they are responsive to the needs of those around them. They voice their opinions even when they are unpopular and speak openly about how their faith impacts their decisions and daily lives. They listen to questions and actually offer thoughtful responses that don’t just dismiss or solve, but actually engage.
When I was 13, after I had been baptized and confirmed, my minister invited me to participate in a group that was creating a Lenten reflection resource. When I hesitated, he assured me that I was now a full-member of the church and that my opinions, ideas, and faithful reflections were valuable. It was one of the most formative experiences of my faith journey as I learned how to articulate what my faith meant to me, and to listen carefully to what other people’s faith meant to them.
What’s with clergy? How can they be so accepting and challenging all at once? How can they bare their souls again and again to, and for others? And why, despite all the sad and hard stuff that they deal with do they often seem happy, content, and calm?
During Clergy Appreciation Month this October, let’s let our clergy know that we appreciate their faith, dedication, and leadership. Even if those are the very things that sometimes make us wonder: what’s with clergy?
Know someone who should consider ministry? Why not tap them on the shoulder?