Friday, December 30, 2005

Pastoral Meme

I keep seeing "memes" in blogs, so I thought I would create my own. It goes with what I'm doing.

The vacation I'm on is actually something that three of us started in 1980. It was called the Annual Ecumenical Pastoral Enhancement Conference. Three of us were chatting about how we needed to celebrate our ordinations with a trip to the beach. We didn't have any money to take our wives to the beach, so we started looking for ways to spend our new Continuing Education budget together. We couldn't agree on a conference that we all liked, and then Bart said, "Why don't we do our own conference? I'll lecture you guys on crap Methodist ministers put up with, and you two can lecture me on crap the Presbyterians put up with -- and we can hold this conference at the beach."

So we did.

It started as a joke, but it has developed into an annual gathering of our families. It is a retreat in the truest sense of the word.

We usually just take turns hosting the AEPEC at each other's homes. Next year, we meet in Miami, then it is onto Columbia, SC -- this year it is Atlanta. The time of year changes -- I think this is the first Christmastide event we've held.

Occasionally we think of holding it in Paris.

Anyway, we were all thinking together about a Pastoral Meme -- those of you who are pastors might enjoy the challenge of answering. Those of you who are not pastors might enjoy the glimpse into the lives of the members of the AEPEC.

1. When were you ordained?

2. What was the first official act you did as an ordained minister?
I gave a prayer of invocation at a fund raiser for a democratic congressman and long-time family friend.

3. What were your most embarrasing moments in ministry?
I don't embarrass easily. I would have to say talking to someone recently and confusing them with her sister -- I felt horrible about that one.

4. What have been your best moments in ministry?
I've had great growth in membership. I've held high positions in presbytery, published a number of things, accomplished a lot of measurable goals. But the best moments have been in pastoral care -- being with someone at death, holding the hand of someone who is in a nursing home, etc.

5. What weddings are your most memorable?
We all have tons of wedding stories. After a while, you get tired of the weddings that are so formal, over priced, or combat zones for fragmented families. One delightful wedding involved a couple from Africa. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Dad went to the ER with a suspected heart attack (false alarm) an hour before the service. People were late. Organist was late. Rain was pouring down and everyone came into the sanctuary soaked. Just as we -- the best man, groom and I -- were about to enter the sanctuary, the best man starts patting his jacket and pants' pockets and says, "I left the rings at home."

Well if I had a dime for everytime I heard that lame joke.

But it was true.

I thought, this is it, this will be the last straw.

But no, the bride and groom didn't care. They borrowed their parent's rings and the service continued.

They enjoyed the wedding. They were determined to have a great time no matter what happened. That will probably be a strong marriage.

6. What baptisms are your most memorable?
The child who snored in my lapel mike while I held her. We were all laughing at that one.

Presbyterians baptize through sprinkling, pouring or immersion, and I've only done one immersion. It was at South Beach. The congregation all followed me and Matthew as we walked to the water wearing old choir robes. Two thoughts came to mind as we meandered our way through sand castle building children and topfree sunbathing women -- first, I suddenly realized what St. Paul meant when he wrote about being a fool for Christ, and I savored and enjoyed that foolishness. Second, while Presbyterians do not practice PRIVATE baptism, this was the first truly public one I'd ever done.

Then there were the Davis twins -- the Associate took one and I took the other. For that one, we added a line we had removed from the liturgy -- "Name this child." Mom actually had to check to see which ear had the piercing (which was how they were telling them apart).

Also I remember my own son's. Some ministers invite other pastors to do their children's baptism -- a tradition I never understood.

7. What do you hate about ministry?
The feeling that I am wasting my time and that I have never accomplished anything worthwhile.

8. What do you love about ministry?
The feeling that I am doing something worthwhile and that I am accomplishing something every day.

9. What do you wish your parishioners would do for you?
Pray for me. That may sound corny, but it is true. I have people who pray for me, and it makes a world of difference.

10. If you were not a minister, what would you be?
A retired minister.

11. If you were not a member of your current denomination, which would you be?
Episcopal -- I love the Book of Common Prayer.

12. Who have been your mentors?
Tom Long -- my professor during my Master of Divinity and Doctoral programs. Great preacher.
My father.
One of my former Presbytery Executives.

13. Who are your top 5 favorite bloggers and why?

1. Donna in Hollywood -- she is a member of a Presbyterian Church, has a Stephen Minister, and has struggled with cancer.

2. Rev. Bill -- I like his writings, and he often sends me to other new blogs and interesting web places.

3. There is a whole group of Rev. Gal Pals -- They are each worth reading -- St. Casserole, Quotidian Grace, Rev. Mommy, and all of the others. OK, I'm cheating here. Five is not enough and this is my way of including a bunch!

4. There are several bloggers from Columbia Seminary -- Baily Blog, Fork in the Road, Exodus 4:13, These seminarians remind me of how out of touch I've become with some issues in the church -- and they reveal to me how out of touch the seminarians are with the realities in the church. Well, I suppose that is something that never changes.

5. Is there still room to mention Kitty Titty, Dawn, Thoughts from a First Year Minister and
Rebel without a Pew?

There -- that's five!

Oh no -- I left out I Married The Pastor.

14. What was it like the first time you were with someone who died?
Humbling. It is the most sacred ground I ever stand upon.

15. What was it like the first time someone made sexual advances to you -- their pastor?
It was at a funeral, and I knew the woman whose father had died was a prostitute. Don't be judgmental -- she was struggling with poverty and trying to get out of the sex trade. After the funeral, I went to her and said something and shook her hand. She took my hand and put it on her breast and said, "If there is anything I can ever do for you, let me know."

I was so shocked I jerked my hand away without even savoring the moment.

"Just glad to be of help m'ame."

That was the end of it.

16. If you were not the pastor, would you be a member of your congregation?
Yes -- it is one of the "test questions" my family and I ask about a church considering us.

17. What is the best thing about your church?
I like preaching in a church that is basically 50% white, 50% black, with Hispanics of both colors, and lots of folks from different nations.

18. Do you think of leaving your church and/or ministry?
I think of leaving the congregation for the next call, but I'm not at the point of serious thought and action.

Leave the ministry? No.

OK -- anyone else want to add their answers on their blogs? Let me know in the comments section so I can see your answers.


Blogger ~**Dawn**~ said...

well i obviously do not have answers for this (lol) but your answer to #14 was very moving. i guess i never thought of it that way. we get so overwhelmed by grief that i think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we are standing that close to Heaven & eternal joy & celebration. that was truly a beautiful answer.

and i get to be in someone's top *ahem* "five"?? (hehe) well that's just cool! i've had a link to you in my sidebar for a long time now as well--the feeling is most certainly mutual. =)

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

wonderful :)

not ordained yet but your answers made me think

Our kids are teenagers but one day God willing I want to baptise my grandchild. I look forward to concecrating the Eucharist - rather than assisting too. Thought of presiding over weddings and funearls is a bit daunting. In our congregation we've had very few of either (mostly people in their 20s)

all in all it made me think-and laugh too

blessings for 2006

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Wonderful post -- great answers! I'll probably do mine today or tomorrow!
And to think I have made it into anyone's "top 5 list"! We CTS folks have to stick together!

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I've posted my Pastoral Meme!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Angelique said...

Very beautiful. Thanks for the honorable mention for your favorite blogs.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Donna Grayson said...

Thanks for mentioning me in your blog. You are listed on the "BlogRoll" in the right column on my index page.
I read your questions and answers. Very interesting things to think about.

2:46 AM  
Blogger cheesehead said...

I did this over at my place.

12:46 PM  

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