Thursday, January 30, 2014

The sadness of a romantic

.... Some churches today assert that a pastor should be an enthusiastic, extroverted purveyor of hilarity, therapy, success, or optimistic activism. These pastors are supposed to be casual, invested with “big dreams” to do “big things for God,” handy at enabling a good time during congregational worship, “innovative” with outreach (i.e. the kids find the pastor sufficiently hip), and—perhaps most important of all—adept in the vocabulary of self-help and therapy. ....
Gingerich offers another—more authentic—approach, described by George Herbert (1593-1633) in The Country Parson, His Character, and Rule of Holy Life:
.... According to Herbert, parsons should expect to see and experience much misery because sin is real and people are in need. These are the two realities that cause sadness. Of course, this sort of knowledge regarding the congregation only comes by a certain level of pastoral intimacy—of presence in a parishioner’s life that sees beyond the image that people often project to the state of their soul. If a priest is sad, it should be the sadness of one who knows things should be right and are not. It is the sadness of a romantic. ....

.... Churches with a ringmaster for a pastor need to look at what they are grounded in—all too often, it is good times and pleasant sensibilities. One wonders if that is enough for a human life in common with others, much less a Christian life in the Body of Christ. The grave parson will instead be much less open to ecclesiastical jinks and more concentrated on helping his congregation to conform more fully to the image of Christ. Of course, because dying to self can become a brutal endeavor, Herbert explicitly warns against “perpetual severity,” a phenomenon one can find in Christians who unhealthily dwell on their sin, forgetting that a Christian’s new primary identity is “saint,” not “sinner.” Christians should not delight in crying at their sinfulness; it indicates that they take themselves too seriously! Herbert tells pastors to embrace genuine joviality and joy. This is why he thinks a parson should “refresh” himself and condescend “to humane frailties both in himselfe and others; and intermingles some mirth in his discourses occasionally, according to the pulse of the hearer.” .... [more]