Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CP 178 'Installing' the wrong message

CP 178 ‘Installing’ the wrong message
I’m beginning to be a grumpy old man. Either that or I have lost patience when things are said and done which aren’t true to belief. One of my beloved sons told me the other day that, “In your twilight years (sic) you probably realise you don’t have much time left so you have to say what you have to say right now!” You’ve got to love the young, don’t you?  Anyway, I’ve had a few grumpy attacks recently. Today’s CrossPurposes is about one that occurred last Sunday. It all started when I attended the installation of a Pastor in his new congregation…
There are 175 people present. The place is crowded to overflowing. It’s a pretty happy gathering because this congregation has been without its own shepherd for 2 ½ years. Other churches, Lutheran and local, are represented too. Almost the full complement of nearby Lutheran Pastors is in close attendance, fully and resplendently robed. Apart from the President and the newly arrived shepherd there are eight, who occupy the front pew like too many reserves at a game of footy. The service unfolds as services of worship do, with significant involvement from the joyful congregation members. There are hymns and songs, readings and prayers, and the sermon. Now the moment has arrived for the new relationship to be formally established and blessed…
The imposing cluster of fellow Pastors stands as one, and gathers around the new man. And to all intents and purposes that is where they stay for the rest of the rite. Their ranks open only briefly to allow the symbols of the Pastor’s ministry of Word and Sacrament to be presented to him by members of his new flock. The new incumbent makes his sacred commitments and is formally commissioned, prayed for, and blessed. One by one the eight extra Lutheran Pastors greet him with a word of scripture and the handshake of peace. The next hymn is announced…
And I am distressed and angry. Not one single member of his new church has been offered the privilege or responsibility to come forward and pray with him or for him! Not one single member of his new church has been asked to come forward to welcome him with scripture or greet him with even a handshake. The impression is that the Pastor has come into a relationship with his fellow Pastors rather than his new flock…
Maybe you don’t get my distress. This was all done according to the book – according to the right rite. But this has not been about the Pastor and his flock. It’s been about the Pastor and his fellow Pastors with the other 165 as observers / spectators. The message is wrong, wrong, wrong. As a church we have been talking for more years than I care to remember that the ministry of Jesus the Christ in each place is about all its people, with all their individual gifts and abilities. Yes, the Pastor has a special charge in responsibility for proclamation and sacrament. But it is the congregation and its Pastor who are called into mission together. That was not conveyed during this rite. We may as well been installing a Pastor in 1912 rather than 2012. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the opening of the new Church building in my first parish in 1980. 600 people packed the church. What a celebration. But the only photo that made the church magazine was a photo of the Pastors who were present!
Some observations. First, change the rite! It’s not written in stone. Let’s change it to ensure that the focus is truly on the new relationship between the Pastor and his people. Set it up so that the congregation representatives are the first to greet their Pastor. Let it be their call and joy to pray for him and to welcome him.
Second, if the brother Pastors are going to be present, as is truly fitting and right, let’s have them stand at the edges of the congregation as a powerful sign of the wider church wrapping its arms in support of that congregation and its Pastor.
Third, let’s make sure there is a note in that service order for other local church representatives to be given an opportunity to bring a greeting and blessing as well.
There it is. Sorry about the ranting. Perhaps I really am a grumpy old man. At least you know why I refuse to gown-up at installations.
Have a good week in Him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Fred did they allow you into the elite row without your gown? If so, they score at least one brownie point.
My fear throughout the denominations is that becoming a pastor is a chosen career path (albeit poorly paid!) rather than a calling from God for the benefit of His chosen people. Academic qualifications and committee membership rank pretty high these days!
I wrote a quotation in the front of my Bible (but can't remember from whence it came) "The decisive qualification is not academic scholarship but rather a praying humble, teachable heart. The rule that applies is that to him who has, more shall be given. It is only as we obey God up to the limit of our present insight of his will that our insight will be deepened and our vision enlarged."
No Fred, you're not a grumpy old man (yet!) but maybe God has already broadened your insight to see beyond the trappings of institutionalised church and into the far richer heart of God.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Robert Voigt said...

Sorry to hear of your experience, Fred - that is NOT doing it by the book! In 9 years as Pres I installed more pastors than most. There is a clear place for lay leaders & group reps to greet the new pastor & family. I had reps stand with the pastors (some wouldn't do it because of number of pastors). But I would limit the number of pastors who could stand with new guy (more than 3 too many - many pastors refused to step back). Is it a plethora or mob or murder of pastors?
I agree with all you wrote about relationship of new pastor & people.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On you Fred ,no you are not a grumpy old man ,just someone who has the courage of his convictions,I agree with you wholeheartedly,and you are such a blessing to our little church,don't ever change.

7:45 PM  

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