Ministry can be a lonely job. I think this hits me hardest every year at this time. Why this time of year, I am not certain. Maybe the busy-ness of the start of the new connexional year (1 Sept), lead up to Christmas, and then Lent/Easter will block it out. In some sense, it’s strange that ministry is such a lonely job because in seminary, I was taught how the vision of God’s kingdom centred more on community than on the ‘Jesus-and-me’ of my evangelical church. On the other side, it seems natural as this is not something I believe I am alone in feeling, and I have seen it happen to ministers before me. Forming close relationships with church members can be difficult and even harmful in some cases. Besides, I never stop being their minister, at least as long as I am their pastor.
I should add that I don’t mean to sound as if I am disparaging my church members, or even more so my wife. April has been a strong support for me. What I miss is the friendships that I formed before ministry. I especially think of my years at Duke Divinity. I formed some of my closest friendships there. I miss the random discussions about theology, the intrigue of what the other folk in our school were doing (OK, this might qualify as ‘gossip’), and the dinners at El Rodeo in Durham. It seemed there was always an outlet from the schedule of exam revision, paper preparation, and reading.
Now I find myself so immersed in church work that it goes everywhere I do. I can’t think of a place where I am not ‘the minister’ or find times where I can step away from that role even slightly. The friends outside of my circuit work (that I can make) come closest to this, but our schedules tie us up from meeting, and we otherwise wouldn’t meet regularly. And inevitably, work-related stuff will come up (‘Talking shop’, as an Anglican curate friend of mine calls it when we veer into these subjects). Sometimes, that’s not so bad, as we all need to blow off steam about our jobs (why friendships in the church can be difficult). I’ll admit the problem is slightly exacerbated with my being an American with the only people I know over here being related to a church function in which I have been ‘the minister’. Others have their ‘previous life’ friends already.
There doesn’t seem to be regular place (an El Rodeo, if you like) or a time when we can all meet and just ‘take the collar off’. Does such a place exist?