The conversation arose out of doing some case studies of problem situations in our congregations. It became clear to us that most folk in the pew - indeed, on our Vestries or those serving as Wardens - do not understand the role of the clergy as Servant Leaders in their communities of faith.
Truth be told, it's mostly our fault. The role of clergy in a congregation has been shifting for some time now, and many of us have kept up the role in the script of "Priest-as-Father-Knows-Best." We know our lines quite well.
For many, many generations, rectors have been a combination of CFO, CEO and pastor. That has a certain appeal to a certain type of person - from those who take on this impossible vocation as part of the notion of 'Suffering Servant / Slave for Christ' to hard-core 'People Pleasers', to those clergy who are acting out their role of 'Family Rescuer' or 'Hero' which they played in their own families of origin.
If you are everyone's everything, it not only places your persona (instead of the person of Jesus) at the center of community (great for your faltering ego), it is also a set up for a consumer-based religion to continue the downward spiral into an empty, ultimately soul-depleting piety - as opposed to one that empowers all the baptized (including the pastor) to do the work of ministry and work out their own salvation in community.
The ego of the pastor may be stroked, but it's also a set up for the pastor to have a stroke - or heart attack, or stress-related illness.
Oh, we've talked a good line about "the ministry of all the baptized," but when that theology hits the ideology of corporate America, it can sound and look and feel to some, on a very pragmatic level, that clergy are just lazy back-sliders.
A Servant Leader, however, will have a healthy relationship with the family system known as church - that of being the Rabbi and Priest, the one who teaches, inspires, empowers and leads by effective example.
You know. Like Jesus did. Being a part of and yet set apart for a special work of ministry. Being the "W/holy other" who is, still, an integral member of the community.
So, how to do this? We explored many ways but the one we thought most effective was to come up with Professional Standards that we would work from for a year, refine them, and then share them with our Wardens and Vestry - not so much as a tool of 'performance evaluation' (although, it can be that), but more as a way to teach the leadership of our congregations the role of the clergy.
First, we decided that there are three main areas of work in a parochial setting: Pastoral, Teaching, Liturgy and "Other".
This list reflects the order of priority as we saw it. Other clergy / laity might have a different perspective. This is mine. Absolutely.
Then, we decided to fill in expectations we had for ourselves in the various areas of parochial ministry. Here are some of mine. Please remember that this is a work in progress. I'll be asking you for some of your reactions/responses / suggestions.
1. Handwritten thank you notes in response to any contribution - monetary or otherwise - to the church. For stewardship pledges, that means a note signed by the committee chair and/or rector.
2. Acknowledging and praying for, within the context of community liturgy, major milestone events: birthdays, anniversaries, special accomplishments.
3. A brief pastoral letter, along with community announcements and copies of the previous Sunday's sermon, sent weekly to all those who are fragile elderly or confined to home, hospital or extended care facility.
4. An annual, public acknowledgment of and expression of gratitude for those who serve or lead the various ministries of the church: choir, acolytes, Eucharistic ministers, church school teachers, Vestry, Wardens, etc.
5. An annual, public acknowledgment of and expression of gratitude for the service of the paid church staff.
6. Visit each member of the congregation who is hospitalized within 24-48 hours of hospitalization.
7. Provide for communion or visit at home once a month by Eucharistic Visitors and at least annually at Christmas and/or Easter by the rector.
8. Provide daily (or more) care for parishioner and family members who are on Hospice care, providing for the Vigil of Prayer as the time of death approaches.
9. Visit and bless all newborn babies within 24-48 hours of birth. Check in weekly on the new family, referring to Parish nurse for assessment as appropriate.
10. Visit all new members or potential new members of the church, preceded by a personal letter of welcome.
11. Meet within a week of a request from any member of the congregation for a pastoral conversation.
12. Provide three sessions of pastoral assessment and counseling and, if necessary, referral to an appropriate community service: individual, marriage or family therapy, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, rehab, 12-step program, etc.
13. Provide no more than six sessions of pre-marital counseling / education and liturgy preparation for those who are engaged to be married.
14. Same day / immediate response to serious accident, unexpected hospitalization, death in the family.
15. Provide, through the Rector's discretionary fund, financial support (help with rent, medications, food, etc.) to members of the congregation and wider community.
16. Return all phone call messages within 24 hours, if at all possible.
1. Sermons which deepen the congregation's understanding of the texts appointed for the day and also help them link the message of the gospel to their daily life. Sermons ought to challenge and comfort, as appropriate.
2. Occasional sermons designed for children and young adults, either in the principle service or a service primarily for children and young adults.
3. At least one preparatory meeting with each family (including sponsors) with a candidate for baptism on a day other than the day of the baptism to: review the liturgy, discuss the meaning of the various renunciations, affirmations and vows.
4. Provide adult education - through Advent and Lenten Seasons, Adult Forums, and one or two major community events annually (eg. Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design; Race, Religion & Politics).
5. Encourage participation in an EFM group. Initiate, support and help provide a parish-based EFM group, led by the laity of the church.
6. Participate in the Confirmation Class with the Youth Missioner, with the goal of community building, calling forth servant leadership among the confirmands, as well as a working knowledge of the scriptures, church history, the prayer book and liturgy, Christian ethics; and participate in a mission trip as well as several community service projects.
7. Provide for annual refresher/training of Eucharistic Ministers and Visitors and Lectors, as well as basic orientation/training for new EM's or EV's - including those young people who have been newly confirmed who wish to participate in this ministry of the church.
8. Guide and support a program of Christian Education of young people on Sunday mornings and/or other times in consultation with parents and young people themselves.
9. Provide for an Instructed Eucharist in small groups and/or in the Sunday morning service as needed and appropriate.
10. Meet with all families who are new to the church from other denominations to provide them with a sense of the ethos, theos and (yes) pathos of The Episcopal Church.
1. Sunday morning service:
Prepare a written order of service2. Leadership of the Pastoral Offices in the Prayer Book as appropriate
Conduct liturgy in accordance with the provisions of the national and Diocesan canons and the vows of ordination.
Preach on the lessons appointed by an approved lectionary
Begin on time.
3. Offering of worship at times other than only Sunday morning, including a regularly scheduled weekday interval (Wednesday morning 7 AM), or principal feast days.
4. Make provision for the public reading of the Daily Office (eg. Evening Prayer every Tuesday and Thursday).
5. Train lay people to take liturgical leadership roles as provide for by the Prayer Book and the Canons.
6. Provide, in consultation with the staff and lay leadership of the congregation, musical leadership and education.
7. Design liturgical services for baptism, weddings and funerals that are personal, warm, participatory and reflective of the sacramental life of the person or persons.
8. Work closely with Altar Guild, Flower Arrangers, Acolytes, Torchbearers, Crucifer, Lectors, Eucharistic ministers, Choir, and all who participate in the liturgical leadership of the Eucharistic Leadership of the church so that the services of the church are coordinated to be dignified yet warm and personal, inspiring and comforting, with a cohesive and relevant message.
1. Active membership / leadership in the community of local clergy in the diocese and among those of other denominations in the immediate area (Chatham Interfaith Council).
2. Spiritual leadership of Vestry meetings in consultation with the Wardens and following a prepared agenda
3. Attendance at parish fellowship events and coffee hour - with emphasis on the role of pastor and trying not to conduct church business during these social times.
4. Host dinners at Rectory or residence for principal leadership groups, such as:
Vestry5. Active participation in at least one Diocesan committee or ministry
Lay Readers, Lectors, EMs/EVs
6. Active participation in at least one National Episcopal Church committee or ministry.
7. Hire, supervise and care of staff members.
8. Coordinate with Parish Administrator to insure that all records are accurately maintained
Parochial Report9. Coordinate with Parish Treasurer/Coordinator of Finances, the supervision of
Annual Report to congregation
Register of all baptisms, weddings, and funerals
Certificates of all baptisms, weddings and burials
Space utilization and maintenance of buildings and grounds
Parochial Report10. Regular self care: spiritual, mind and body
Monthly and Annual Vestry / Parish report
Develop a Rule of Life which includes:
Annual physical examParticipate in a regular mutual ministry review.
Monthly spiritual direction
Regular pastoral care/therapy
Monthly parochial supervision
Monthly clergy colleague group
Strive to tithe or maintain tithe as a spiritual discipline
Observance of full weekly sabbath
Regular continuing education
Observance of an annual spiritual retreat
Cultivate the values of gratitude, generosity and excellence; intelligence, creativity and fun in all labors and all aspects of my life.
So, there it is. My first attempt to put this all down into one coherent form. Did you find this helpful?
Are there things I might have worded or articulated more clearly? Is there something needs clarification?
Were there some surprises or new insights you gained?
Of course, these are my standards, which reflect my strengths (and weaknesses) as I make application of them in the particular location where I practice my ministry.
The particular elements would vary - sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically - from, say, a rural setting to a suburban setting, or a working class to a college community setting, to an urban or inner city setting.
However, I think the basics 'headlines' of Pastoral, Teaching, Liturgy and Other are accurately reflective of how I see my role as Servant Leader in a Community of Faith.
So - here's another question: Do you think this can be standardized? Can there be diocesan or national standards for professional, ordained ministry? And, if there were, what effect might it have on the church?
I'd love to hear your responses. Thanks in advance.