The day after Christmas holds many possibilities for pastors, most of them involving the word rest. I do not typically book office hours on this day. Four years ago proved to be an exception. Bob and Linda called on Christmas Day, requesting an appointment.
Seminaries generally do a fine job of educating the minds of people who are called into ministry. But how well do they form the hearts and spirits of those people? Do seminaries build leaders who are servants of Christ?
Recently I spent a week on retreat with my book club. It’s a smart
and kind and diverse group of people. But one of the greatest pleasures
of their company is that only two members are Christian—and very
different Christians in terms of theology and tradition. One woman, a
psychologist, laughs out loud because she can’t believe that she has a
friend who is a pastor.
Tom walked into my office looking glum. He tossed his backpack on the floor, fell into a chair by my desk, sighed, and then rummaged through his bag for the registrar’s form. Tom is a first-year seminary student, and I’m his counselor. We walked through the courses he would be taking, most of them part of our core curriculum. Tom’s lack of enthusiasm was screaming at me. Finally I took the bait: “So, Tom, what’s the matter?” His hands went up in the air as he shot back, “What’s the deal with all of these required courses? When do we get to study things that are relevant?” Ah, I thought, the old “Let’s make thousands of years of inherited tradition relevant to me” argument. I’d just had a similar conversation with a woman in the congregation where I serve, who wondered why we repeat the “same old creed” each Sunday.
Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada pastor in Toronto, is prepared to fight a process that could defrock her. An avowed atheist, she maintains that behavior, not doctrine, should be the foundation of the church. She has the backing of her current members, but about 100 of the 150 people in her congregation left in 2008 after she did away with the Lord’s Prayer. A review process has been launched by the United Church’s General Council to examine whether Vosper has violated her ordination vows, which include affirming belief in a triune God (Globe and Mail, August 5).