The Heretic Writes: Asking and Community

The interesting thing that I keep learning over and over again about being a pastor and a leader is that having faith in one’s community can pay off in unexpected ways. I’ve had a ton of good role models in seminary for this, and it’s amazing to watch people light up and step up when given the opportunity to do so. Sometimes I forget that the trust that is inherent in giving the space for someone to work is a Big Deal. Not only for the person who I ask to take on a task (or when I encourage them to do something), but for me as well. It’s been a long journey for me to have the faith in people, let alone the faith in my leadership capabilities.

I recently read Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking” (which, if you haven’t read it, you should), and one of the thoughts that I while reading it (and actually tweeted to her about) was that somehow she had sat in on my Pastoral Care class. Particularly the part about how we clergy need to remember to ask for help to avoid burnout. A good deal of this advice was about having at least one close friend that you can confide in which is exceptionally good advice and quite necessary for clergy people. But I think that some of that asking has to be from the community we serve.

I remember a sermon that Bishop Flunder gave awhile ago where she was preaching about when her mother had passed away. She talked about how, in some schools of thought, it is consider proper for preachers and clergy NOT to show how “broken” they are in the pulpit. To some degree, we’re still taught this. Bishop, however, didn’t do that. She let the community help her when she just went to the floor crying. She let them pray over her and mourn with her during that time.

I think this is really important. There is always some distance between a leader and the people they lead, especially in a religious setting. However, I think it’s appropriate to be open and show the community that you, too, are a human being: that you get sick, that you don’t like certain foods, that you get angry, that even sometimes you lose faith and find it again. And sometimes, you need to ask for help when you’re in a state that you can’t do it yourself. It’s a trust between you and your community that you’re not going to work yourself into the ground, and that you have faith that they will (and can) do the things you ask, or encourage, them to do.

If I don’t ask for things from the community, what would that say about my trust and faith in them?

I’m not always perfect at it, that’s for sure. I can be pretty stubborn about things most of the time. I also get into the “I should just do it so it’ll get done.” attitude. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do everything, and that giving someone else the reins isn’t a bad thing.

This week, which was my birthday week, I realized that the best part about having that kind of faith and trust in my community is that they will do amazing things that will delight and surprise you. Watching others grow in faith, or discover something new about themselves, is, I think, seeing the face of Deity in them. It is a way of truly understanding what immanent deity looks like.

That is an incredible blessing, and I thank all of my community, in person and online, for that.

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