A pastor, a reluctant prophet, and someone who doesn’t want to be a trope walk down the street. (On letting go of pastoral identity for the health of the community and how the community may not love you for it)

I was walking down the street a week ago, when I passed a woman on the sidewalk. In retrospect, I’m impressed the ground did not crack beneath me; people a mile away who were having a perfectly pleasant day in that moment thought, “Woah! Why do I feel so totally bummed all of a sudden?” She didn’t make eye contact, and we had already passed before I remembered how I knew her, but the energy she radiated conveyed (a) anger with the universe for my existence in general and (b) low-grade fury that the fates had forced us to share this patch of concrete in particular.

I certainly had more than a few interactions with her over the years, although I wouldn’t say we were close. The reaction came because I wasn’t who I was supposed to be. She was the partner of a former congregant. And I hadn’t pastored right. And I suspect that injustice will never go away for her.

In my seven years as a local church pastor, she’s not the only person impacted adversely by the fact that I didn’t pastor right. There are other people still feeling hurt because when a regular person does you wrong, that’s not cool, but when a pastor does you wrong, that impacts your relationship to that church, to institutional religion, and sometimes to God Herself.

I want to be really clear on something right now—I don’t think they’re wrong for feeling that way. And I don’t think I actually pastored all that badly under the circumstances. But I do think that we’ve been backed into a corner as concerns the relationship of the church to its pastors, and the ways of getting out of that corner are neither simple nor universally agreed upon.

 

Those of you who have known me for a long time know that ministry has humbled me. A lot. I walked out of seminary with a really clear sense of what is broken in the church and how I planned to fix it. I still think I was largely right about what is broken. My approach to fixing it, though… that was not all net, if you can forgive a basketball metaphor.

See, I was really clear that hierarchy is harmful to the message of Christ. The pastor might need to lead, but needed to do so with humility and also with a constant readiness to get up off of that leadership to make room for others as SOON as s/he could step into a role of support. This meant when I went to a fourth of July barbecue at a congregant’s house, about two months into my pastorate, when another congregant smiled up at me and asked, “Does it make you feel good to see all your sheep here?” I responded, “Oh, Miss Lila, we’re all each other’s shepherds!” I think about that now and just think, “What. A. Dick.” Because now I know that I was perpetuating instability and maybe even creating a sense of rejection.

That wasn’t necessarily the biggest problem, though. A bigger problem that none of us were aware of was that I could define my role as pastor however I wanted to: I could preach about it, I could share it in one-to-one coffees, I could embody it in moments of crisis and celebration. But that wasn’t going to change the role that various congregants knew to be “what a pastor is” or “what a pastor does.”

That collision between my self-understanding and their understanding of me was …well, it was just that, a collision, and as happens in collisions, people got hurt.

 

This is where I think my story is not just about one congregation’s experience. It is actually a parable— maybe the parable of The False Binary of Pastoral Ministry: Pastor or Prophet. We usually mean something specific when we use those terms, even if those terms can potentially encompass more, so I’m going to lay out what I think are the working assumptions that underlie those two categories.

PASTOR: So I sometimes joke that people think pastor and they evoke Father Mulcahey from M*A*S*H, a kind, sweet man always concerned about your personal spiritual well-being, full of compassion and gentleness. Interesting tidbit—most pastors are pleaser personality types. They want to be liked. They hate conflict. Most importantly, they want people to be happy. And a lot of congregants want a pastor who prioritizes these things. Except when a handful of folks call the shots for the whole congregation and people feel driven out and unprotected, which happens in churches ALL THE TIME. Conflict-averse pastors allow bullying to happen, or at the very least disallow healthy dissent where people can feel safe while working through their problems.

I remember going to a church where the pastor said, “They say the job of the pastor is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But I’ve never known anyone who was comfortable.” I found myself thinking, “no, no, some of us are very comfortable and Jesus would want us to feel some serious discomfort about that.” But every head around me bobbed in agreement with him. That church is, 15 years later, in its last years, because it never got to a place where it was willing to be uncomfortable enough to welcome the afflicted. It was a progressive church that embraced gay and lesbian leadership, and the church also embraced non-disruptive clergy and pushed out people who wanted too much change. The congregation sought out leadership that buried dissent and shut down disagreement for the sake of “unity” and “happiness,” and I believe it has killed them.

PROPHET: I was not the only kid who came out of seminary with all the answers, and I have watched several of my colleagues embrace the role of Prophet in the midst of a woefully misguided congregation. They will let the congregation know what’s what and exhort the congregation to step into this other way of being, come hell or high water. I sometimes want to say to my colleagues, “If you’re not feeling pretty bereft about having to do this, you might not be doing it right.” That is to say, the Biblical prophets did not march in guns blazing. They were not Clint Eastwood. If they could have done anything else they would have—partly because bringing that kind of news did not win you much affection (and sometimes even jeopardized your life, e.g. Elijah) but also, I believe, because prophets were called to their task by God because they loved God’s people so much, and who likes to tell people they love good news? You do it not because you enjoy it but because it is the only hope for the community you love to survive and ultimately thrive. I think the models we have for prophetic ministry are a caricature of the biblical model, and we replicate the caricature to no one’s avail.

 

But I had mentioned I don’t think the problem is just the pastors—these responses to a broken system are responses to something that is, I believe, IRREDEEMABLY broken. The brokenness of the modern day church may be a whole other blog post, but for now what is broken is who the church wants a pastor to be versus what a church needs in a pastor (and what it is possible for a pastor to be).

So maybe my story is the parable of the Church Between Two Eras.

Churches of the 1950s, when Christianity was the dominant cultural religion in the United States, generally thrived best with a Dwight D. Eisenhower kind of pastor—strong, self-assured, with the answers to your questions and a personal investment in your family’s wellbeing. And since people in the pews remember how it felt to be in church in those days, of course that’s the paradigm of minister they’re seeking out, especially when the world keeps getting more volatile. (People also kept their problems more suppressed in those days, and the pastor didn’t have to navigate the depth and complexity of people’s lives in the same way. This was bad for society and made people sick and perpetuated all sorts of harm and oppression, but it made the pastor’s job easier then than today.)

There was also a very unhealthy “pastor as expert” paradigm—he was the one with the bible knowledge and the one who held the spiritual and moral high ground. He was a kind of Uebermensch. This was also incredibly unhealthy for the congregation, in that it ultimately led to the pastor taking others’ place as the studier of scripture and person whose prayers matter and person who takes care of the sick. That, I believe, robbed laypeople of the specific and various forms of priesthood God blesses all followers with. (Pastor Anthony Robinson famously said during an interview at a church, after they listed all the things they expected of him and nothing that they expected the congregation to take charge of, “I am happy to be a Christian WITH you. I will not be a Christian FOR you.”)

Enter pastors like me. We see how this previous paradigm with Pastor In Charge and congregation not claiming their priesthood, and we say, “that’s no good.” We might even refuse to pastor that way. But the muscle memory of a whole nation shaped by the mythos of the 1950s pastor does not break down just because we say it should.

Many of my colleagues and I are trying to live out a paradigm of ministry that we believe will help the church be its better self: we want a church that welcomes questions and ambiguity, since that is what most of the unchurched people around us function out of (and a lot of unchurched people never got into church because they knew it wouldn’t tolerate their wrestling). We want a church where people take care of each other, like a family, like the early church in the book of Acts. We want a church that extends grace to each other (and maybe even to us) and doesn’t need anyone to be perfect (including us). We want a church where everyone is passionate about caring for the community and lots of people participate in generating the vision. And dude, that is a serious buzzkill for a lot of people who already know what church should look like and what the pastor should look like.

One or two of the people hurt by my ministry were faithful churchgoers their whole lives, and my ministry did not look like what they had experienced. One or two of the people I’ve alienated over the years were not regular churchgoers themselves. But they knew what a pastor should be. And when I couldn’t be that, and when I couldn’t explain sufficiently what I believe the community of Christ is supposed to be INSTEAD, they felt betrayed. (By means of full disclaimer, I think it would be fair to say that there’s a reason so many people take an associate ministry for their first ministry—because the learning curve is steep. So it is likely I hurt people because I was experimenting on them as I figured out what it meant to be a pastor. That is to say, their complaints are not necessarily unwarranted just because I am currently proposing that ministry should look different than it does.)

The church is caught in this very messy place right now. The church of the 1950s doesn’t work. There are a handful of leaders who are saying “we’ll walk with you as we figure out together what that new thing should look like.” But when the pastors aren’t enough like the pastors of the 1950s, they are a disappointment to the congregation.

My personal learning in all of this was “just because I reject the pedestal doesn’t mean I won’t still get put up on it and then knocked off.” Or, “disappointing people is an inevitable part of leadership.” But I find myself wondering how to sustain those leaders who have stayed in the church because they love its people so much but who know that the model for pastor doesn’t work for them or their congregants. I watch creative clergy colleagues of mine (of every race) lose members who want worship they recognize with a pastor who acts like a pastor. Those clergy colleagues are trying to help the congregation move through our current paradigm shift with integrity, but I’m not sure we have something better for those who stay behind and tough out this strange journey with us.

 

You can tell from my writing that I work mostly with churches struggling for mere existence, so the situation I write of seems dire if you worship in a vital and alive congregation. There are healthy, thriving, vital models out there, I know. Some of them with powerful lay leadership. Some of them with powerful pastoral leadership. And I still think that with the upcoming generation innately distrusting institutional leadership, the latter model won’t work forever. However, the churches that only remember the days when that model did work do not trust that any other model could. And congregants and pastors alike get harmed in that tension between what won’t work forever and what doesn’t work now.

I’m all three people in my title—pastor, reluctant prophet and person who doesn’t want to be a trope. And today I stayed home to write a blog post instead of going to church. Because I’m trying to figure out what kind of church hasn’t already prescribed what a pastor is, so I can be a part of that community.

Because even a reluctant prophet would like to avoid more people resenting the fact that they have to share a sidewalk with her.

Comments (16)

  1. Bill

    Very insightful. And one of the reasons I chose chaplaincy instead of parish ministry. Have you considered chaplaincy? You’d be good at it.

  2. Sandhya (Post author)

    I feel like the best religious secret in the world is that the best radical theologians are chaplains. 🙂 I have a friend who’s a street chaplain. If I could find a gig as a Movement Chaplain, I think I might sign up for that in a heartbeat. In the meantime, I think the Oakland Peace Center might actually be my parish–everyone is a leader, everyone’s invested in healing the community, and they’re learning how to be there for each other as well. (Maybe I’m lazy…the best job is the one I work myself out of over time.)

  3. hiddenName

    This pain is so familiar. As I begin year 3 in my first solo call, it’s clear that for some in my church I will never be a pastor to them. Particularly one, who resigned from all leadership because I am not meeting his/her needs. The world desperately needs the experience of connection, hope, love and family that I see at my church every Sunday and all week long. Yet, even a community with a good number risk-takers needs assurances of familiarity. I wonder to what degree gender plays a role in this conversation. As in, males are the stereotype, so it is easier to accept new thoughts/models of ministry when that person fits one element that is well-known.

  4. Sandhya (Post author)

    It’s interesting you mention gender, hiddenName, because I thought about mentioning that element from a different angle–some of my male clergy colleagues are more likely to say “Y’all need to get with the program” and assume that people will follow along, whereas a lot of my female colleagues nudge gently and slowly, and my experience is that (minus the X factor…there is just something about a few of them of both genders that radiates trustworthy and powerful leadership that results in the moth/flame thing even though I don’t think they’re trying to cultivate a personality-driven ministry) the bull-in-a-chinashop men and the please-may-I-have-some-more women meet with the same level of resistence although they have different levels of push….but I could be wrong. That’s just how it feels to me right now, but even as I type it, it reads more like a caricature.

  5. Carol

    As one still struggling to understand where I fit as a person of faith within religious institutions beyond seminary and rejected for ordination by predominately white church ministerial committees comprised mostly of those shaped by the 1950’s way of ministry, I must tell you this resonates deeply for me. Sanhya, I have never had the opportunity to walk alongside you in ministry except from afar or in listening to your preaching, prayers, and prophecy at assemblies, but I have always admired your insights into the gospel and models for ministry and community. Your blogs, writings, and posts give me hope; yet, I’m also aware I cannot live what I want changed in the world through you.

    I recognize within myself times when I have been that person on the pavement who has felt betrayed by a minister whom I at one time admired – which I’m surely not proud of. In fact, there have been one or two people in my own student pastoring where I’ve been on the receiving end of that angst and later learned they were projecting upon me what they did not like about ministers in general or even what they dislike most about themselves that they feel confronted by amidst my mere presence. For what it’s worth, such awkward encounters often lead me to pray and wrestle again with my own inability to forgive and find solace within, rather than from another. Fortunately, amidst congregations and ministers and church denominations doing harm, God keeps on calling, woo-ing, waiting, and moving in ways that bring me back to “hesed” – something no one else can define for me.

    Thank you for blogging today. I, too, did not bring myself to church today (a true rarity), but I am feeling ministered to by the experience of hearing you witness to your faith and through my own contemplative prayer about grace.

  6. Sandhya (Post author)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Carol!!! And for the reminder that amidst all of this brokenness, God is still stirring us up and also applying balm when we’re ready to receive it.

  7. Scott Budlong

    As always, I find the post to be deeply personal and thought provoking.

    I would like to offer up a response about the macro-context of the church. You say in your blog that you work mostly with churches that struggle for mere survival. I think this post about the place and role of ministers reflects the context of struggling churches. To be sure, the majority of congregants worship in larger churches while the majority of pastors serve smaller churches. It stands to reason that there are a lot of pastors who will be feeling out of place. It will be the minority who take larger churches (100+ ish) that will feel a little more secure in their profession and role.

    The industry is declining (for now), and this decline is effecting pastors in a serious way. The market, as seen in worship attendance and donation dollars, just isn’t demanding what appears to be a surplus of church from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The reality is that the supply and demand have not yet reached an equilibrium. With this as the given context, ministers enter this profession to work hard and are disheartened by the inevitable decline. There will be some who can combine skill and luck to transform a congregation. Sadly, some may have had skills but I don’t think all had good luck. I don’t know if the market (congregations) have decided how they want to value some who “wants to be Christian WITH you” on a small church level.

    I know there are ministers who have entered the ministry and are doing quite well. They are growing into their roles and recreating the church message. It is possible. I believe many of these ministers that have earned sustainable churches did so because they treated their calling as a profession. They were somewhat professional in their approach. They learned, prepared, networked, had mentors (not just friendships and colleagues), and worked hard at their spiritual disciplines. The stories of people growing or starting new churches should be lifted up as exceptional and nothing short of amazing, because those people grew what a market wants to shrink.

    All of this is to say, that your post seems to bring up a point, for me, that pastors personalize their failure to succeed in a declining market. As for letting people down, let’s not get carried away on the importance of these let downs. People are let down everyday and get over it. These let downs are not likely to be crippling. Plus, you can’t expect from the corner store what you expect from Wal-Mart. Same is true for big and small churches. It’s apples and oranges.

  8. Sandhya (Post author)

    So grateful for your thoughtful response, Scott. And–psst–your MBA’s showing. 😉 I think there definitely are some really healthy traditional churches. Maybe it’s my west coastness coming out, because a good friend of mine raised the same point when I told him about the alternative spiritual community my co-pastor and I are starting: “there are traditional churches that are already reaching young people of color; I don’t see what you’re doing as sustainable.” But I think that, at least out here, that’s no longer enough to meet the spiritual needs of millenials of color in particular, so I do feel this tension between two worlds. That said, you’re absolutely right–support and mentoring and healthy models of church and personal spirituality can make for healthy and vital congregations. At the same time, I know a lot of truly dynamic and creative and professional pastors out on this coast who can’t make budget, so I’m not sure it’s a guaranteed formula, especially for congregations doing amazing work primarily with “the least of these.” Then again, Jesus didn’t make payroll or manage to pay the light bills every month. Maybe he had already figured out that model wasn’t sustainable when working with down-and-out folks. 🙂

  9. Bentley

    Sandhya, your Facebook posting requested that I respond here. I reference the FB, because there you say that you’re running out of steam on this topic and simultaneously ask what points need to be fleshed out more. Well….?

    I love the way you think because you get me thinking. I do experience this post as thinking out loud and do think you could clarify, expand, and redact this post, in order to further the thinking of others (selfishly, mine).

    First, I think you have at least two posts here: the parable about the false pastor/prophet binary, AND the church between two eras. Clearly, they’re related but there’s plenty to unpack with each. You might want to explore the churches that are struggling financially and those that are meeting their budgets. We both know that there are churches in both categories that are doing amazing ministry in their communities and there are churches in both categories that are toxic and inwardly focused. So, perhaps our assessment tool for evaluating the health of churches needs more than one axis.

    Given that there are few churches that are financially and emotionally healthy that are also doing transformative community ministry, why are these rarities lifted up as what should be normative? Why are we demanding our future clergy be educated in a way that was designed by the 1950s church? Then our clergy graduates with more debt and therefore needing more compensation than most churches can afford. They then can’t afford to be pastors and certainly can’t risk being prophetic.

  10. Sandhya (Post author)

    Wow–THANKS, Bentley! Yeah–this was definitely a brain dump and I could tell there were several strands; I’m just too much of a Meyers-Briggs N to always figure out for myself what those strands are. 🙂 I think the issues you’re lifting up are really important (and I think Scott, who posted before you, might have some interesting thoughts on the multiple axes question). Obviously, part of my subconscious agenda was to say “Yo! Folks! Priesthood of all believers! Jesus wasn’t an idiot when he suggested in 2,000 years ago, and it may be time to take that seriously, even if there are costs to current congregants and pastors in the process.” But, that agenda being subconscious, I’m only noticing it now. Which means I need to think a lot more about all the strands you lifted up (and also concede that pastoral leadership CAN be helpful in many settings; it’s just its normativity that is problematic. Maybe).

    And yeah–the prophet speaking truth to power when the power holds the pursestrings…that part’s pretty messy, too. Makes me think Shane Claiborne had a few things right. You wouldn’t be interested in writing on any of this yourself, would you, Bentley? 🙂

  11. Steve DeFields-Gambrel

    If I may further stir the pot, I suspect that people’s expectations for pastors goes far deeper than we realize. In the long view of history humans evolved through thousands of years of tribal life, and in those cultures there is always a shaman-sage-holy person who is expected to be tboth a strong religious leader, ritual-maker, and healer; in ancient cultures the role of religious leader and healer were the same. Interesting, huh? This is because not everyone could travel in the spirit-world (where sickness and evil live), so the holy person, who did travel in that world, was the tribe’s link to the spirit-world.

    This made the holy person different, weird, sometimes their hut or tent was literally “set apart”, on the edge of the camp. Often the dressed in different clothing, or in other was proclaimed that they were “set apart.” strangeness often included mixed gender roles, and they often acted in ways we’d call insane. By definition this holy person was always iconoclastic and challenging, but also the one you go to when you’re sick or in trouble.

    I think that this rather primal tribal role still lives in our collective unconscious, and intuitively people are looking at us through these unconscious expectations. It expect pastors to be different – set apart – which challenges our ideas of the priesthood of all believers.

    The truth is that we don’t live in that tribal world, haven’t for thousands of years. And truly most congregations don’t really want that kind of holy person, nor is Christianity that kind of nature-spirituality. Yet those instincts and longings still live in us, and so at a primal level we find ourselves in a bind, unable to fulfill what may be a deep psychological need.

    At the same time, perhaps if we can find a creative, rational, 21st century model that honors and respects that primal need, we can find a way forward.

  12. Sandhya (Post author)

    Steve, a friend of mine recently shared an article about how we can “remember” things that our ancestors experience–they’ve discovered that if a rat develops an aversion to a scent, its grandchildren carry that aversion even if they didn’t have that experience. (He said this is maybe why he, as an African American man, doesn’t like cruises.) So your comment is pretty mind blowing from that perspective. Wow. Just. Wow.

  13. Bentley

    Sandhya,

    I’d love to participate in a writing project with you. I was going to write that I don’t think this is the theme that I’d like to tackle first. Then, I read Steve’s “pot-stirring” post. Suddenly, I’m interested in the tension that often occurs in religion (might even be essential to it). We are the preservers of tradition and yet we also cast vision for new ways of being. As much as we dream of a priesthood of all believers ushering in the beloved community, we desire (particularly, in times of crisis) people (pastors/shamans) who have been trained in the tradition’s wisdom to help us navigate our perplexing times.

    Sandhya, building on your linking of Steve’s comments to an African American man not liking cruises, let me share an anecdote:

    I once was at a workshop on the role of gospel music in the “Black Church Experience” at a church that cherished it’s identity of being “multicultural.” I think I was one of only 3 white folk there. One woman raised a lament that there are all these people who claim to want to have this multicultural experience but don’t take the time to learn about this integral part of her heritage. The room then looked at me.

    As I was trying to both deflect and be honest about my white privilege, I riffed on the practice of scorched warfare where the bodies of victims are thrown in wells. I consented that the centuries of slavery left us with poisoned wells and a lot of well-meaning white folks have no idea how to engage that atrocity. We have no language.

    The facilitator of the workshop quickly named when there is no language that’s why we have liturgy. She lifted up a DC church that was doing ritual work in healing the Middle Passage.

    Whatever the church is becoming, whatever God is inviting us to embody in this time and place, I think we always will have the “odd” people moving on the edges of civilization and concocting stews of strange symbol management that soothes our woundedness.

  14. Rebecca

    A couple things briefly (because I should really be doing other things!)…

    I was going to suggest a totally different angle on the gender thing. I feel like shifting people’s expectations about what a pastor is and should be is one of the most important reasons to encourage women in ministry. Because it is so much harder to put those out-dated expectations onto someone who looks so different. When my small-membership church in Alabama hired me, they knew they were doing something crazy, and they were desperate enough to do it willingly. And so they didn’t put that old junk on me. I think with enough ministers who are so obviously not that old model, the old model will eventually die. I actually feel like people who match the model better (middle-aged men) are probably more entrapped by it.

    Secondly, may I suggest that the pastor-prophet binary is actually fairly out-dated as well? I don’t think we’re being fair to the ministers of the 50s and 60s if we don’t realize that there were a lot of prophet types out there then. A lot of them actually lost their jobs, for doing things that today would just get most of us a serious talking-to. I believe that serious, mature Christians expect both from their pastor; perhaps our problem is that we don’t have enough serious, mature Christians, but I don’t think that’s a new problem either.

    Also, I think the pastor-as-resident-Christian expectation is probably way newer and didn’t really come from the 50s. It’s a side effect of the increasing hold of consumerism on our culture, I believe.

    (Probably part of what I’m saying is that you’re blaming the 50s, when really we should be blaming the 80s.)

    For me, this all boils down to the fact that effective transformation has to be rooted in relationship. I think we all know that; we’re just not always into living it out. It’s exhausting, and often means trying to be in relationship with annoying, stupid people who don’t like us. But once we grasp that, the pastor/prophet dichotomy disappears.

    Okay, I’m going to look for the thin privilege post now, which is what I really came looking for…

  15. Sandhya (Post author)

    Wow, Bentley. That is powerful. Thank you. Let’s keep this conversation going. I wonder if part of the problem isn’t just with the priest as set apart–it’s turning the priest into more things than is helpful… is it perhaps enough for the priest to be spiritual healer and liturgist? ALexander Campbell wouldn’t have placed counseling on the priest for sure. (And I’ve had fantasies for years of being more of a rabbi, although rabbis study WAY more to earn their position than we as pastors do…being the scholar-in-residence for a congregation appeals to me and serves a critical role that our denomination in particular struggles with, anti-clericalism and anti-intellectualism blending in our beautiful and messed up frontier-ness.) Thank you.

  16. Sandhya (Post author)

    Rebecca, you’re absolutely right. The pastor-prophet binary IS outdated and there definitely were ministers I knew who lost their jobs for marching in Selma, for standing with the farm workers, for not throwing a gay teenager out of a youth group. The world to them was a world of systems, and they didn’t feel like they could afford the luxury of pastoral when they had to choose–they lost out, too. And yeah–a serious mature Christian should want both, but America has really pressured boomers in particular to function out of a consumerist mentality that some of our best Christians fight and overcome, but they have to fight HARD to break out of that, and if they don’t, then they want a pastor and not a prophet….that’s a whole other thing, though. 🙂

    And yes, you’re definitely right–pastor as resident Christian was the natural progression and logical outcome of the professionalization of ministry and pastor-as-expert of the 1950s, not concurrent to it. My writing got a little lazy in that section in my desire to get everything written down.

    And I sometimes think that women in ministry is part of the solution just as you say. And at the same time because of patriarchy we get a lot of expectations placed on us that are sometimes different, sometimes more demanding. And a woman with “healthy boundaries” is guaranteed to flat-out offend a lot of church folks, even if she’s a pastor. But I do usually agree with what you’re saying. 🙂

    And yes, you’re totally right that it’s about relationship. I guess what I’m getting at is that a lot of congregants don’t want that relationship to go both ways, and in some subtle ways pastors are discouraged from letting it get too equitable either…

    At the same time, I’m also aware of the risk of universalizing my experience and my observations… just thinking out loud. So grateful for your different experience and perspective!

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