Oct  2016 04
Appreciate Clergy

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Yes, it may be the equivalent of a Hallmark holiday—a day recognized in order to sell stuff. Nonetheless, I hope many will reach out and show appreciation for a clergyperson you know. (My context is Christianity, and the following reflections are focused primarily on that community.)

Now, there is hardly anything these days that does not carry controversy. Some persons will object to appreciating clergy. In the unreasoning atmosphere of public argumentation and displays of offense, I’ve heard lay people sometimes say “Every day is Clergy Day, as compared to credit due the laity,” as if appreciating one group diminishes or discounts another.

And, yes, some Christian clergy have stained the calling and profession of clergy. They have breached their fiduciary responsibility, which is to care for persons who are in vulnerable circumstances rather than exploit them for ones’ own interests. The Catholic Church’s handling of priests who prey on children, the ostentatious lifestyles of a very few clergy who make a great deal of money, and the pandering of clergy who surrender the gospel to political ideologues all diminish the public’s estimate of the clergy.

Indeed, a Gallup poll from three years ago showed the public’s perception (rating of very high or high) of clergy’s “honesty and ethical standards” has fallen to below fifty percent, just under police and just above daycare workers. That is high, in comparison to lawyers (twenty percent) and members of Congress (eight percent). But, still…

Apparently, clergy’s estimates of ourselves has also dropped. When I first entered seminary in the late 1970s, clergy had the longest life expectancy among the educated professions. Today, clergy health is an ecumenical problem. If health across a profession is an indicator of stress and self-worth, then clergy, their families, and congregations are in trouble.

So, in the midst of what has sometimes been a (not always undeserved) negative narrative about clergy, there is all the more reason to show appreciation for the clergy who inhabit the difficult calling with grace, at least on most days.

Do you know a clergyperson who, at least often enough that you’ve noticed:

  • Loves a person who is difficult to love
  • Preaches intelligently, with heart and spirit
  • Speaks the truth in love
  • Treats each liturgical occasion with joy
  • Manifests God’s presence each time s/he enters a hospital room
  • Is unafraid to ask the community to rise to a standard of generosity, financially and in the way persons listen to and speak with each other
  • Prays in public in a manner that indicates an active personal practice of prayer
  • Honors the community served in the way and where s/he “shows up” in public
  • Represents the community served in places—such as jails, marches, and shelters—where the community may find it hard to be
  • Keeps the boundaries of the community porous
  • Gives and receives
  • Studies, thinks, and writes
  • Walks life’s journey with a wide variety of persons
  • Shows you, by precept and example, what following the way of Jesus means
  • Can deal with anger, both their own and that of others
  • Laughs at themselves
  • Respects and cultivates respect for boundaries that keep everyone safe, but not necessarily comfortable
  • And/or has offered winsome biblical and theological frames for you to make meaning in your life?

Then let that clergyperson know how much you appreciate them!

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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