Over forty years ago, I graduated from college and theological seminary. At that time, I felt that the future stretched ahead of me and that there were all kinds of possibilities for growth and ministry. I had been the beneficiary of scholarships and veteran family assistance from Social Security. I knew that I was fortunate and I wanted to do the very best with my education in order to help others.
Parish ministry and pastoral care, at that time, and certainly today, were a challenging enterprise. I found myself doing things that I didn’t feel prepared to do. On one occasion I was negotiating to get a family member of one of my parishioners into an alcohol treatment program at a state hospital..
This was a lot for this 28-year-old young man to confront.
Fortunately, for me, at that time I had a lot of good colleagues and resources for help that were available. I knew that I wasn’t alone in this endeavor, and that there were people who were available to give of their expertise and experience.
There were a lot of mentors who were available to serve as a pastor to pastors and who were also gifted in their wisdom.
Now conditions are different. We have a lot of emphasis on new church growth, and a lot of consolidation of existing denominational resources. There is the increasing trend of congregations shrinking and closing their doors, decreased enrollment in some seminaries, and an increase of seminary graduates going out into the non-profit sector for employment versus those who are going to serve a church.
Indeed, it’s a new world and with the perceived scarcity of opportunities available, it’s only natural that some people might feel stingy and feel the need to hoard knowledge including information regarding potential jobs.
Here, we need to ask ourselves the question, do we believe in abundance or scarcity? Does our faith teach us to be generous or to be cautious and miserly?
I have known people in both the civilian and military setting that have charted their career path meticulously, like playing masterfully on a chess board. “If I make this move from this parish to another and then become a Conference Minister or Bishop will I have arrived; or if I move from this line worker job to becoming a Supervisor maybe even a Chief, will I finally be recognized for what I know ?”
Some of these people, that I have known, have acted like everything has depended upon their own merit, and therefore no one else has made any contribution to their success or achievement.
Here the voice of scarcity can be heard:
“I’ve got mine. Sorry you don’t have yours ! “
When we are honest with ourselves, it’s good to acknowledge that others have contributed to our lives: our parents, clergy, teachers, coaches, etc. It’s not just about us. The world has given us a lot; blessings and curses and in between. Perhaps, it’s incumbent upon us to give back to the world to those who need our expert guidance and assistance. Maybe, we need to go out of our way to help make the playing field more even for those who have not had any success getting access.
As Joni Mitchell said:
“Plenty to care, Plenty to share. “
People of faith, or no faith or somewhere in between, have the opportunity to live according to what they believe and to model that witness to others.
May we be moved to give back and not just always take this day !
May it be so.