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Struggling with Appointments

Art only wishes it could imitate life.  You cannot make up some of the things said to District Superintendents while consulting on appointments. At a recent Cabinet meeting, a District Superintendent reported on a consultation with a church whose pastor was moving.  The Pastor-Parish Relations Committee was asked what they would like in a new pastor.  The response was: “Someone who can bridge the gap between the elderly congregation and the younger people that they want to have come in … while helping them not change.”  I kid you not. News flash!  The goals of no change and bringing in younger people are incompatible.  The great old hymn has it right – “to serve the present age our calling to fulfill.”  Lessons abound in this brief (and to me both sad and humorous) quote from a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. Change is loss.  The end of Christendom and the rise of the post-Christian & post- denominational age encompass many of us with deep loss.  An effective pastor must minister sensitively to this loss all the while leading into a new future.  It is not an easy balance.  Congregations that refuse to embrace change are choosing to die.  Simultaneously, pastors that charge ahead without compassionately facing grief are doomed to failure. Our greatest need is spiritual.  We need an infusion of Psalm 23.  Many of us remember the phrase well from the old King James translation.  “Ye though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).  What is often missed is the second half of verse 4 – “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”  That is interesting! A rod to prod and a staff to protect. Today the word “comfort” connotes a sense of physical or psychological ease, a lack of hardship.  But if I remember correctly the word originally meant to encourage, to inculcate bravery. “Comfort is linked with ‘fortress’ and ‘fortify’. The Bayeaux Tapestry portrays a scene where ‘William comforts his troops’ at the Battle of Hastings. He is not handing out tea and biscuits to his wounded troops. He is poking them in the back with his sword, strengthening and fortifying them for the continuing battle”  (www.ivoroakley.com/2%20Corinthians/2_corinthians_11-11.htm). We need to comfort in the best sense from the front, helping both grief and change to be sensitively enfolded in the advancing kingdom of God.  Maybe the new Common English Bible (CEB) translation says it better.  “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.  Your rod and your staff—they protect me.”