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A Lovely Gift from a Wonderful Priest

I would not normally exhibit personal notes on this blog, but the wisdom contained herein must be shared with others. A clergy friend who was teaching one of my classes missed time due to a death in her family. We missed her, and wanted more of and from her, but life can be that way sometimes. I had to offer this to others because while it clearly is addressed to those of us called to ordained ministry, it is applicable to all ministers, both lay and ordained. So pull up a chair, take a moment, and share in this gift that I, and my classmates, have to treasure.

Holy Week 2012

Dear companions on the way,

Thank you for your kind and heartfelt expressions of prayer and condolence upon the death of my beloved sister.  Life and ministry often pose these dilemmas wherein there are two  (or more!) places where you are supposed to be at once.  My rightful place was to be at the bedside of my only sibling, the baby sister I loved.  But I sincerely regret that I wasn’t able to spend those last few hours with you, wrapping up our time together, and taking leave in the way I would have chosen.

Written words cannot substitute for face to face interaction, but in this case, this brief and fond letter must suffice.  I thank you for the privilege and fun of sharing in a part of your formation for ministry.  Even as the nature of my own ministry shifts away from parish leadership, I rejoice in the certainty that each of you will bring extraordinary gifts to the varied places, people and contexts where you will serve the Lord.  Do not buy in to the narrative of a shrinking church – tomorrow’s reality is up to the power of the Holy Spirit and the ongoing discipleship of faithful and holy men and women.

I’ve learned much over these past few decades – from my theological education and other academic adventures, from colleagues and parishioners, from the deacons, priests, bishops and seminarians whom I have taught, and from paying attention to my own growth in ministry.  Here is what I would want you to know as you embark on a new ministry:

Tell the truth – but always in love.  

Be of good courage – you are always in the palm of God’s almighty hand.

Have fun – find joy, be creative, laugh often.

Have a life outside of the church – find a hobby and pursue it with the same passion you give to your ministry.  Give your family and friendships priority – you will NEVER regret it.

Strive for balance – Think of a church steeple SPIRE. Tend to your Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational and Emotional health.  

Be humble – no matter how impressive our accomplishments, there is always much to learn.  Every person we encounter has some wisdom or grace to impart.

Be confident – you were called, you were chosen, you were set apart for this remarkable and grace-filled life.  Rejoice and be glad that God is in charge.

It has been a joy, an honor and a privilege to spend these past weeks with you.  Please keep in touch – I’m eager to hear of your adventures in ministry.  I will hold you, and the people you serve, in my tenderest prayers.

Faithfully and fondly yours,