Cherry Pickin’s March 2023
I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to share what I call “the parable of the snow plow” with you all Winter, but the weather just hasn’t cooperated. I very much doubt that March will ‘come in like a lion,’ but even if it doesn’t the story is worth sharing. Please keep it in mind for the many seasons – wintry and otherwise – that are just beyond the horizon.
20 years ago Linda and I received some very good and practical advice from the previous owners of our home in Mansfield, MA: Don’t invest in expensive mailboxes! And, just about every year since the wisdom of that advice has been proven. Due to the shape of our street, it’s a pretty reliable law of nature that once per year our mailbox will be the victim of an encounter with a snow plow.
I’m not complaining. Snow plowing our streets is treacherous work. My gratitude for the folks who do it is immense. And, the slight inconvenience caused by an occasional broken mailbox isn’t enough to diminish my appreciation. Instead, I take it as a ‘serenity prayer’ opportunity: knowing the things I don’t need to change, or can’t change, is healthy.
I bring up this ‘parable of the snowplow’ because, in the life of congregations and ministers, something similar sometimes happens – especially when a new minister arrives. Even for healthy congregations like Westminster – adjusting to a new minister can be hard. It can feel stormy, icy, and even dangerous. And, sometimes unexpected collateral damage occurs.
Some of you are probably wondering – “Oh no, something awful must have happened. I wonder what it was.” Well, as far as I know, that’s not the case. Instead, I’m sharing this with you as an interim ministry lesson – it’s good to know ahead of time that eventually something difficult is going to arise in any relationship between a minister and church. This is generally normal and natural. And, it’s especially important to keep that in mind as the gears start turning for your settled ministry search.
The hard reality is that churches and ministers sometimes disappoint each other – idealistic expectations inevitably disappear into the rear-view mirror – and this is for the best. I surely do want you to know that I’m ready and able to hear about feelings that arise for you when congregational life feels stormy, icy, and dangerous – or when your spiritual mailbox gets clipped. And you can reasonably expect that your settled ministers to come will feel the same way.
While facing disappointment or conflict with honesty, integrity, and hope can require courage, it’s a spiritual path like none other. I hope you’ll choose it with me. I gladly choose it with you.
With all good wishes, Rev. Eric