Friday, August 12, 2005

Bishop Envy?

We've talked to quite a few unchurchy-type friends and neighbors about the impending closure of our church. With few exceptions, one of their questions is, "Where will they send you next?" These folks are surprised when I explain that, in the Presbyterian system, there is no "they" to "send" me anywhere; that when the church closes this fall I will be just as unemployed as they would be if their company, school, clinic, service agency, or whatever were to shut its doors-- That I'll be sending out the Presbyterian equivalent of a resume, working my network and waiting by the phone just like any other job seeker in town.

"Wow!" they blink.

So, to the apparent belief that churches are fixed parts of the landscape, running on no visible means of support, I can now add the apparent notion that pastors pretty much have no employment worries. Apparently, if folks think about this at all, they assume we're kind of like the military or CIA agents: we might get difficult or dislikable assignments, but we've always got some kind of gig.

Of course, I could have joined up with the Methodists . . . .


Songbird said...

It's the same in the UCC, and unless the Conference Minister (a) actually cares about you and (b) actually has a positive relationship with the church in question, there is no one to help grease the wheels. That is so hard when you are limited geographically, as mothers so often are. I truly sympathize. Depending on how fundraising goes this fall, I will probably be right behind you. I'm pleased with the huge increase in interest in doing stewardship, but I think it's doubtful that they will be able to come up to the conference guidelines for salary, and if they can't, it's time to face the need to hire someone part-time rather than full-time, since that person is not me. Sigh. It just seems so wrong for money to play such a role in these decisions, and yet it is a practical necessity, isn't it?

Being Shielded said...

Roman Catholics are one of the few churches whose bishops have the power to "send" anyone anywhere. Methodist and Anglican bishops don't "send" any more than Presbys do.

As a lay person, sometimes I'd like to have a minister sent to my church, just to discourage the bitterness that arises when the former minister leaves. I'd like not to have the anxiety that comes with the call process. I'd like stability and to know who I'm getting and when as soon as possible. On the other hand, I've been in situations in which the person called by the congregation wasn't the best fit for the church at all. I'd hate to be stuck with someone just because s/he was assigned to me. (Not that I wasn't already stuck with the minister in question, but that's another story.)

Cheer up. The Holy Spirit will go to work and something will present itself. Remember that perhaps you are working on God's time right now, rather than human time. Pax.

PPB said...

I disagree, being shielded. A methodist can go to extraordinary efforts to get a job outside her conference, but generally speaking, Methodists get sent. They have some say in trying to shape the direction of where they go, but ultimately, the bishop can and does decide where everyone goes. More often than not he church has a choice, too, at least some amount of choice, but again, ultimately, one's duty is to one's bishop, and one goes where he or she sends.

I'm not Methodist, but I worked for the Methodists for many years. A transient clergy is part of what they believe it is to be faithful. And the Bishop does see to it that all clergy in his or her conference are employed--they might not like their employment but they have work.

And Rebel, I'm so sorry. I can see why the UMs are looking good right now--at least there is some semblance of geographic certainty there. Do you have connections from semi famous that might help you grease wheels, etc. Is Semi Famous Presbyterian?

Apostle John said...

I was in a group of ministers and we were all talking about moving. We were all envious of each other's systems. Whatever system we are in, none of them are perfect. They each have great value, and they each have serious shortcomings.