April 5, 2010

Called or Sent?

I'll never forget how surprised I was when I first learned that some churches call their pastor, rather than accepting the one sent. True, I was just out of school, a newly-wed, serving in the role of pastor's spouse at our first appointment. My husband had a master's degree and we lived with very little. True, we didn't have food stamps but we really looked forward to those fellowship suppers. While we loved the people, the parsonage had a crack in the wall next to the fireplace, such that you could sit in the living room and look across the street. While this may sound quaint, it got cold in the winter. Frankly, I had never known anyone who lived like this. But I sucked it up and reconciled the situation thinking that perhaps my childhood wish to be a missionary had come true. Perhaps you would have been shocked too, given the circumstances.

When appointment time call around, I learned that there were several churches in our conference who had the power and prestige to call whoever they wanted as pastor. To me at the time, it seemed that our church played by the rules and others didn't. Not only that, my spouse had given his word that he would itinerate, but others didn't take their vow as seriously. I also learned that there were wide differences in living standards. Still, this was our first church and our ministry was fruitful. People later told me that they all took a collective sigh of relief when we left because the church had not been so active or taken in so many new members for a long time.

But our time there left its mark.

I made several promises to myself when we left three years later, the first being that I would never let a church treat my family like that again. It was our first church and we didn't know that ground rules about what we could ask for, but clearly there were different sets of ground rules for different sets of churches. To be fair, over time the church did make needed repairs, but, to my knowledge we were on our own. There was no help from anywhere beyond the local church.

Since then, I've lived in some lovely parsonages. Now, can I say living like we did at our first church was worth it? I'm still divided on the issue.

What about you? Is it worth it for you?


1 comment:

  1. Having grown up in the Disciples of Christ denomination, to me, a call system is normative (though I know it has its drawbacks, too) and itineracy is archaic, unfair, and counterproductive to an effective ministry.

    Our parsonage (our first) is fairly well-kept. After previous tenents abused it, the church replaced the carpeting and repainted the walls prior to our moving in. Still, I have learned that when something needs repair, we cannot wait for approval by a board to hire a plumber or other professional (who will probably end up being the chair's brother or whatnot and not do the best job). It's not that they don't care, but landlord by committee is not a viable system. (My husband plays the "we are missionaries" card too, but it doesn't make me feel better!)