Not so long ago, I was at my home church having been away for awhile when I ran into a friend in ministry from another tradition. I expressed genuine delight at seeing this person with their family at ‘my’ church and voiced my assumption that they were visiting. “Oh”, they said, “we’ve been coming here for awhile now.” Mildly taken aback, I expressed even greater delight while stifling my surprise and my temporary embarrassment. Actually, I wanted to say, “Yes, of course you’re here now. How come I didn’t know this? I thought you belonged somewhere else.”
Please don’t misunderstand. I was truly pleased to discover that this couple had chosen to sojourn with us. They are gifted mature disciples of Jesus Christ who would not have made a decision like this without careful thought and prayerful discernment. My ‘mixed’ reaction probably had more to do with coming to terms with the reality of change experienced recently ‘in transition’ myself. I truly believe, in fact, that this family’s transition could be an example of God ‘shuffling the deck’ for his kingdom purposes.
Where does one turn when one does not know where to turn?
To a place where a set of relationships have been carved and have formed a deep and trusted rut over years of use. That would be with friends who truly know one another.
For many years I struggled and survived pretty much alone in the wilderness of ministry. Our life as pastors is to know and study people and to not be surprised by anything that floats our way. We are to be good listeners and better physicians of the soul. The problem: we have not taken care of our own…souls. That place that is deep and integrates the varied thoughts, convictions and passions of our life. Without constant reflection we end up talking to ourselves and continually being trapped inside our own circular arguments. Speaking for myself, I am driven to please myself and protect myself from any exterior harm. What I needed were a couple of friends to listen unreservedly and knock me out of the habits that dominate my thinking and acting.
What does it mean to hold friends close?
Many years ago, about 15 in fact, a couple of “friends”, or should I say acquaintances at that particular point, got together and decided to hang out a little to see where it would all go. Little did we know what it takes for true friendship to mature and feed the soul.
In the beginning we commented on social events, relationships gone wrong, pastoral dilemmas, political and cultural oddities, and theological movements that morphed in front of our eyes. Many words were spilled as we attempted to decipher what we sensed were important topics to cover. Then it got personal. At some point we collectively decided to drop the facade and let light shine into some dark corners. There have been lots of those.
As we begin this journey, it seems fitting that we draw on some classical humour. Of course, the real intent of this blog is to share the collective experiences of three very different men, from three very different traditions. All of us have walked together over 15 years and have shared our lives, our loves, our frustrations, and our joys. We do spend time in a lot of restaurants, including bars and coffee shops, where we speak about our lives as ministers of the Gospel, the people we serve, and the families we love. Our times are always rich, and have proven the wisdom of sharing in the communion of saints. We hope you’ll enjoy journeying with us.