Monday, February 25, 2013

Not to be served, but to Serve/MANN

One of the special opportunities for retired clergy is being available for short term ministry. This may happen when a minister leaves suddenly and the congregation needs time to rethink their identity and purpose. It may also happen when the congregation needs time to consider their needs and explore where God is calling them. It might be when a congregation’s beloved minister is away on sick-leave or sabbatical and they need someone to carry on the ministry that is already moving forward. Learning to be a faithful leader is learning to serve and discovering how to be a good listener is a sustaining strength to serve in these capacities.

“So why does one retire if the plan is to keep working,” people have asked. I retired so I could continue to serve in complimentary ways, one being to write a particular work to which I felt called: to heighten public awareness for Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons. That took a decade to complete, and earned the recognition of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award.

"But, were there other reasons to retire five years before the magic number?" Most definitely! Continuing in Women’s Studies at Trinity Seminary/Indiana, where I took my last degree, kept me in touch with women’s issues. As well, I wanted to write about other topics, historical novels, children’s stuff and nonsense books, family genealogy stories, and of course the church—a topic dear to my heart which seems to be an unending effort.

Why the church? We had great ministers in our pastoral charge through the years and their visits around our big kitchen farm table became a regular occasion to which even as a child, I looked forward. Especially when one minister in particular liked butter tarts, which meant Mother baked a dozen to send home with him and a dozen for us. When I was ordained, I was told that home visits were important and I drove my old Pontiac through as many prairie grain fields, as I knocked on front doors.

I learned long before attending or teaching in seminary that congregations are very astute—they know what they want and don’t want, what they need and don’t need. And I am always so humbled when I have the privilege to sit at a kitchen table over a cup of tea and listen to how God speaks to them and through them to me. Often we don’t name it, but something like the warm rays shining in the window on a February day doesn’t need to be identified as the sun—we know, because we’re familiar with its comfort and its light.

I have also learned that congregations can be great teachers—and if we trust the still small voice, we will have the privilege of serving. Whether we minister from the pulpit or the pew, listening is a special ministry of service.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .” Mark 10:45 (NIV)

Donna Mann
Agnes Macphail Series: Aggie's Storms, Aggie's Dream, and Aggie's Voice/coming
WinterGrief: Personal Response to Loss
Take Time to Make Memories

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Donna, congratulations on your being awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal! (I'm among all those who are proud of you.)
I identify on a number of levels with this post. You evidently view pastoral ministry as a call to the privilege of serving, as I do. And also, I appreciate your point about congregations being great teachers; I too, have learned much from those I served over the years.

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