"Ministry a satisfying vocation.” Headlines like this one appeared in newspapers, church periodicals and elsewhere this past spring, as Duke’s (Lilly-funded) Pulpit and Pew Project reported the initial findings in a national clergy survey. It was not the only, or the most important, finding of the survey. But it was the one that reporters and editors found most fascinating and newsworthy.
When I visited a Baltimore neighborhood called Sandtown in 1997, my most vivid impression was that of disturbing, jarring contrast. I remember a whole neighborhood of abandoned houses—each one an oversized skull, with empty darkness peering out of its broken doors and windows and mocking the life that had abandoned it. In the midst of these ruins, however, there was a street teeming with life.
Last summer around this time I was on the island of Nantucket, once a whaling port and now a tourist destination, where I noticed numbers of people wearing canvas clothing in a peculiar shade of pink. Men wore trousers made of it, women wore jumpers, and I even saw a baby in a stroller wearing a pair of bib overalls made of it.
It seems to me a wonderful irony that Christians in America are preoccupied with debates about biblical authority just when all parties to the debates are less knowledgeable about the content of scripture than many of our predecessors were.