We pondered the second chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians at our prayer group this evening. There being only a small number of us, and knowing each other well, it was a time for talking about thoughts and reactions to what we had read.
It’s one of those passages of Scripture where being a member of the church is compared to being like a stone built into a wall,
. . . you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Pondering the stones being built together, I suggested pastoral ministry was often like being the mortar between the stones, trying to hold together people who might otherwise grind against each other; trying to love even the people who annoyed you.
Somehow, the question arose as to who cared for the pastor, and the answer was no-one. In my early years of ministry the bishop in the diocese in which I served was very conservative, but cared actively for his clergy, bringing them in individually from time to time to talk about how things were.
It will be ten years next January since I moved to this parish, not once in that time has anyone ever picked up the phone and asked “how are you?”
It doesn’t trouble me, as one of my Presbyterian friends tells me, I am of his persuasion at heart. I am too old and too Protestant now to adjust to anything different. I always fear that a new bishop will start interfering, start being annoying. Bishops are fine when they go off and do whatever it is that bishops do (someone must keep the cartoonists in business); detente seems a satisfactory arrangement, leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.
Sometimes, I wonder if ministry might have been different in a more episcopal system, but then I think of all the years my Grandad and countless others like him worked their farms by themselves. If they could cope with the hardship of farming life, then sitting in a big, flash, suburban rectory with a parish filled with very nice people is, to use an Ulster term, “wee buns”.
Anyway, it’s hard to take seriously people who dress in funny hats.