To many, clergy are an anachronism. And with the recent charges against Nova Scotia’s Roman Catholic Bishop for Antigonish, some write off religious leaders as hypocritical at best and a menace at worst.
But for every errant priest there are hundreds who are effective. For every evangelist caught with his pants down, there are pastors who hold up integrity.
So while many churches will mark Thanksgiving tomorrow, might I mention that it is also Clergy Appreciation Day? It will pass quietly — as it does every year.
I know that somewhere in their list of personal thanksgivings this weekend, some include their religious leader. Maybe she met them late at night in the intensive care unit or walked them through the funeral. Maybe he listened when they needed to talk or spoke words they needed to hear.
All the while, clergy wrestle with discouragement. A recent survey of Catholic and Protestant clergy by the Pulpit and Pew project at Duke University Divinity School found that in the last five years, 40per cent occasionally doubted their calling and 44 per cent considered packing it in altogether.
We are not without fault. Some preachers shout for an hour and say nothing. If you could lay the members of their congregation end to end, they’d be a lot more comfortable.
On the other hand, some days you might slave for hours over a Biblical passage and the only words people remember are when you asked: “Is this microphone working?”
We tire of being asked to invoke for better weather. We are often introduced to the group as the “good reverend” — a tip to everyone to curb language and save racy stories for later.
Hollywood stereotypes are ghastly.
As in most professions, some are unkempt and only adept at finding ways to do as little as possible. But some work to the detriment of their family and die too soon, leaving bitter children to hate the church for the rest of their lives.
We may be trained in the justice of Jehovah, but must acquire the art of being referee for warring saints or firefighter to quickly douse blazing gossip and misinformation. It takes years to perfect the recipe for seasoning zeal with patience and virtue with tolerance.
Should anything be made of Clergy Appreciation Day? There must be 50 ways to love your pastor. Dayspring, a Hallmark subsidiary, offers approximately 120 cards for the occasion.
Frankly, I’d hold off on that gift-wrapped large print Bible or handwritten note with helpful hints on how they could do their job better.
Make sure they have a life, and take a day off. Work for peace in the parish. And when they pray for you, pray for them.
Bob Ripley is a syndicated columnist and Senior Minister at Metropolitan United Church in London, Ont.