Thursday, June 23, 2005

Observations about Pastoral Sparkle

I call it "sparkle". Sparkle is that tiny bit of light in the eyes which reveals a lively, fully present person. Pastoral sparkle, like all sparkle can be lost or hidden.

When I was a seminarian, I observed older pastors who had no sparkle. They had dead eyes. I wondered about this and began observing that the general poplulation, at around 40, got dead eyes. Not all, but enough so that I promised myself I'd try to keep my sparkle.

You've seen these preachers at meetings. They sit there like lumps with no interest flowing anywhere. They are enduring the meeting. They may be holding their tongues. They are mentally at the golf course, tennnis court or in a Lazy Boy in the den. Who knows? Whatever is going on with them gives off no energy.

I know we can't be "on" all the time but what's engaging about someone who is dead-eyed unless you are the therapist trying to help them?

So, having said this, I give you the St.Casserole 27th Ordination Anniversary Coming-Up Sparkle Advice.

1. Take care of yourself. Sleep. Eat. Walk around. Dig a trench. Do something to keep yourself feeling as good as you can.

2. Have as many interests outside of your work as you can. Do something creative whether you think you are good at it or not. Read. Read theology, biblical studies or whatever your interest is in ministry. Read novels, biographies, history, science. Read magazines. Read and think. Read widely then put the new information together with your old thoughts.

3. Make some friends with people outside of the church. I know this is difficult but you need people to relax with and say what you want to say.

4. Spend time without your preacher-self "on". Drop that facade so you won't forget who you were before you became holy. I'm not talking returning to the sin dens of your youth but many pastors have a pastoral affect which is stilted, pious, goofy with holiness and silly. Put that aside and don't be a twit all the time.

5. Ministry is tough. Ministry is demanding. Find humor where you can. Watch a silly movie. I suggest the original "Arsenic and Old Lace", "Airport", "Spaceballs", "Harvey".

6. Please do not try to bring the Kingdom in by yourself. This is a team effort.

7. Ask God to help you balance what needs to be done in your ministry with doing nothing. We are poor models for stewardship of time if we work 24/7. Learn to be useless. Back off.

8. Keep your devotional disciplines going. Read your Bible, pray for others, sit in silence, meditate, put yourself into the scripture passage. Pray and listen.

9. Let's say you just can't get it together. You are sour, crabby and worn-out. Go see your internist and find out what's going on.

10. Get it wrong every now and then. Wear an outfit that doesn't work. Put on lipstick. (I write from my perspective so if you don't wear lipstick because you shave a heavy beard everyday, get a better haircut than you've had).

I've left plenty out. What would you add to this list?
Love ya,


reverendmother said...

This is a suberb list from a superb minister. Thanks St. Cass! And congrats on the milestone (my head of staff just celebrated 25).

the reverend mommy said...

How about,
find someone (other than the spouse) you can be your real self with -- no pastor face. Someone you can talk to any time day or night. You can go days without the phone call or you can make 10 in a day. A friend who will be a safe place to help you "process" outside your head.

And a pedicure.

Quotidian Grace said...

Great advice for ANY church professional--I'm going to share it with our Educators group at presbytery.

revmom/cheesehead said...

This is a great list! I'm not worthy! (bows self-deprecatingly)

I was just out with some IRL revpals the other night, and one if us said, "I'm so glad I have people in my life I can say "fuck" in front of who won't burst into flames!"

It became the slogan of the night. And yes, tequila was involved. Why do you ask?

mark said...

Thank you so much for this list. I have, indeed, observed sparkle-less pastors at various meetings and conventions and whatnot. I've always told myself that I wouldn't be like them, even when I'm 80! I just needed to find ways to not become them. And your list has given me a good start.
Thanks, and congrats on the milestone!

PPB said...

I would add one other:
Keep writing your blog!
(Oh, wait, that's pretty much how to give me sparkle instead of you....never mind.)

Songbird said...

How brilliant!
Congratulations, dear St. Casserole, and thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Marie said...

Great list!! And congratulations. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Harvey. Good advice all around.

Mr. Cloudy said...

I'm not a minister but the odd thought that crossed my mind was to get angry from time to time -- not to blow up on people, but sometimes I wonder if lost sparkle is a slow giving up of hope. And maybe anger helps us say No! to this giving up.

SpookyRach said...

I think Mr. Cloudy may be on to something there...

Mary said...

I liked Mr. Cloudy's suggestion, too.

St. C, I love your list. It's wonderful that you include frank suggestions like #4 with common-sense ones like #1 and #9. And a little humor works in every list, of course.

I'm not a minister, as you know, but every time I read about your experiences in posts like this all I can think is how lucky your congregation is to receive your sparkle on a regular basis. :)

ruraldean said...

Thank you ST. Casserole, just found your post through another, and today is the eleventh anniversary of my priesting so I need some good advice- feeling mostly angry I think,but how to use that constructively? I'm writing to you all the way from rural England, so greetings from across the pond.

Kathryn said...

A great list to read on the morning that I leave for my pre-priesting retreat. Thank you, St C...
My suggestion would be to give as much weight to the positive responses to your ministry as you do to any negatives...somehow, I find I carry the latter round for weeks, while assuming the former are "just people being kind"!
Oh..and happy anniversary!

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