Not far into my newly-minted tenure as an Anglican rector (translate ‘senior pastor’) of a relatively large urban parish, I was confronted with a dilemma. “You are pastoring a lot more people than you’re used to, David. Who’s pastoring you?” As has already been documented in these pages by Doug and Brent, the fabric of our ‘soul group’, which has been woven together by our mutual calling as pastors in the city, has been at least a partial response to that question.
That weaving project began 15 years ago and is still under way. Many of my issues and concerns are different now. I have recently retired from a ‘full time’ senior pastor’s role and find myself formally in transition. I have a new set of joys and challenges, including a beautiful country property to look after in the summer along with some recently diagnosed health issues. But, two related themes keep me more motivated and passionate than ever in pursuing transparency in peer-to-peer community.
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.