This past month I once again took advantage of an opportunity for continuing pastoral education. Each
year I attend a national gathering of United Church of Christ senior pastors of larger congregations called
“Conversations.” It is an opportunity for learning, renewal, and each of us serving the others as a colleague and peer educator. John Dorhauer, the General Minister and President of the UCC meets with us, and keeps us up to date on denominational matters. Of course, when you put nearly 60 senior
ministers in the same room at the same time, there are no egos (intentional sarcasm).
This year, however, we were each spiritually fed and humbled by our keynote speaker, Rev. Peter Marty.
Peter is the editor and publisher of “The Christian Century,” a vital periodical for the mainline Protestant
church. He is the son of Martin Marty, Christian scholar, professor, and author who taught at the University
of Chicago, and was one of the theological giants of the last half of the 20th Century. Peter is also the
Senior Pastor of a 3500 member Lutheran church, which lists among its successes putting away 80 dozen\ donuts at coffee hour each Sunday.
Dr. Marty did not wow us with cutting edge secrets for congregational success. He spoke from the heart
about being a minister, which is really one of the few “generalist” professions there are. It combines the art of public speaking with writing, leading, resourcing, counseling, serving as ritual elder, and knowing at any time you might be called upon to hold the hand of a dying saint of the church, as happened to me several times in the last couple of weeks. As I sat listening to his words, with the other pastors sitting at conference tables lined with water pitchers and note pads, I saw the faces of many of you, the people of St. Peter’s, in my mind’s eye. As he took time to cast some ideas for “deepening” our ministry, I took each
suggestion as a charge to deepen my own ministry with you. I share some of those ideas here, and invite you to join me in deepening our ministry partnership, and pray for me as I do for you. According to Marty, your pastors should:
- Take a risk once a month
- Listen more attentively and deeply, asking “What can I learn from this
- Establish practices that engender and sustain trust.
- Learn something about your church that you don’t know well enough.
- Practice joy and self-care.
- Cultivate the widest set of emotions you can each day.
- Keep asking: “Why should anyone be led by me?”
- Practice both teaching and learning.
Dr. Rich Wolf