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Thanks Norman!

Timely words.  We're just thinking about some of these same issues.   We too have many struggling congregations.  And yet, church visit reports have come to be given at the end of our second day 'if there are any'.  This sends the message that the local congregations are not really that important (imho).  I will have a look at Crabtree's book.  And, I suggest that an interim committee could schedule the next visits to be reported on, and have those visits be the first items on the classis agenda, when everyone is still fresh and attentive.




Perhaps the best and most faithful thing we might do in such a situation is to acknowledge the chaos and complexities, lament violence and loss of life, lament hawkish exploitation of the bravery and loyalty of the young on all sides of armed conflict, and pray as much like Jesus as we can, recognizing that we all need mercy now.  Maybe acknowledge openly the temptation to do 'balancing acts'.

Happy conversations to you!



Dear Louis,

Thanks for raising this topic.  I appreciate your call to visit and stay connected to all people, regardless of any kind of struggle they may know in life.  I think we have much to learn from the fellowship of AA in this regard.  It is interesting to observe that they as relatively 'unschooled, ordinary' people are able to address the roots of addictive behaviors while we with our formal ministry training often cannot.  I find it helpful to think of addictions on a continuum ranging from the ones that may be easy to spot because they have a concrete substance, to the ones that are also destructive and more easily hidden, pride, or self-hatred for example.   When we are willing to reach out for the help that we ourselves need, and especially make good use of those time tested 12 steps we may find that we have the personal resources of strength from God, and compassion for people as well as wisdom so that we don't need to send addicts away, but may minister to them and they to us.




Hi George,

Thanks for thinking out loud with us.  "God calls me now to walk with him, first as a person, a husband, a father, grandfather and friend. Then as a…what?" 

Testimony, witness, elder statesman, encourager?  Those of us who have spent any time in pastoral ministry know how tough it can be.  People who reach that far shore of retirement with their integrity, sense of humour and capacity for growth, not to mention faith, are a testimony to those of us still in the thick of things, that ministry does not need to kill you.  Don't read too much into this, I love the life Jesus has called me to live and the work he has called me to do.  My family is enjoying our life too.  So that's all good.  But some days or weeks are just plain hard, and to see someone who has 'run the race well' is encouraging.   Blessings on this open road you are travelling George, and if Shirley suggests you read something, it's likely worthwhile. 

Grace to you both,


Excellent piece Ken.  I would add that the need for supervision or mentoring is not only limited to our 'clinical-pastoral work', but makes sense in other areas, preaching or administration too, for example.  And, as with other disciplines, we really should have a mandatory continuing education stipulation as part of ordination.  There is simply too much at stake, our own selves, our families, the congregations and communities we serve for us to be working with less than what other callings require.  Blessings on your work in your new field and thanks for reflecting and sharing your thoughts.

Peter, it was great to read your piece.  I'm in chapter 21 this week and was struck by the scene where Jesus tells Peter, 'follow me' and the next thing Peter does is turn to look at John and ask, 'what about him?'  There appears to be an intriguing tension between Peter and John in the gospel.  I've never really looked for it or noticed it before.


Thanks Scott, fine piece.  Loneliness and isolation are indeed killers.  And, geographical distance is only one small factor that may or may not contribute to it.  Those who live in an area where there are many CRCs may know the loneliness and isolation of being in an unspoken competitive relationship with peers and churches.

My own experience?  Coming out of seminary, I had no idea what I didn't know.  About myself, about being a pastor, about what really matters and what does not.  I reached out to colleagues because the suffering of loneliness was greater than the embarassment of actually admitting that I needed help, advice and sometimes consolation.  To anyone who wants out of the lonely pastoral life I would say 'it might not click with the first colleague or group you reach out to, but don't give up'.  Peer learning groups have been a real highlight of my time in ministry.

I also want to touch on your comment about the kind of preaching we need to be doing.  I've found myself wondering about the popularity of TED talks.  They are engaging, informative, creative, often compelling.  For our preaching to have those qualities, as well as deep faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ takes fellowship, encouragement and strength, from and with peers as well as our congregations.

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