In the final chapter of Clergy Tails—Tales, www.smccutchan.com, the author offers some reflections on ministry and the nature of church in our world.
ACCEPTANCE OF THE UNQUALIFIED
How do you respond to the statement of theologian Shirley Guthrie, “The church is the only ‘club’ in the world that accepts as members only those who are not qualified to belong to it!” (Christian Doctrine, p 357)
As you reflect together on what is happening in our churches today, how do you respond to the statement: “God is neither dependent on our purity nor defeated by the acts of faithlessness of clergy or congregation. Ministry is a complex mosaic of strengths and weaknesses in a confusing and sin-filled world.”
THE MIRACLE OF THE CHURCH
In light of your own experience, how do you react to the statement: “Ministers are strong and weak, faithful and faithless, as are the members of their congregations. Yet each week clergy gather with their congregation to hear the Scriptures, sing the songs, and pray the prayers that remind them that there is more to life than meets the eye. When we are honest in our confession of sins, we discover that our hope rests in a power beyond ourselves, and there is reason for hope. The miracle of the church is not in our faithfulness but in God’s faithfulness. We are witnesses to how our confused reality keeps being interrupted by grace.”
STANDING IN THE BREACH
When you reflect on your own call to ministry, is the following an accurate description of your vocation: “Clergy stand in the breach between God and humanity. We, too, are imperfect, but we have been called by God. Like Moses in leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, we find ourselves speaking to the people on behalf of God and also turning to beg for God’s mercy on behalf of the people. We often feel like neither audience is listening, but we are not free to abandon our call.”
BEING INTENTIONAL ABOUT HEALTH
The Duke Clergy Health Initiative documents the dramatic decline in the health of clergy in recent years. What are two ways that you are being conscious of the need to pay attention to the maintenance of your own health? What is one new way that you would like to begin?