My previous 3 lessons that I learned on my Voluntary Spiritual Renewal Leave have all really led to lesson #4:
Spend more time with authentic relationships
I know, I know, church is supposed to be filled with authentic relationships… the kind where you can be 100% of who you are without unfair judgment, over-the-top ridicule or disproportionate applause. My experience is, as a clergy, this is incredibly unrealistic (see lesson #3).
I can count on one hand the number of laity in 23 years of parish ministry with whom I feel I can be 100% Joe Royer without peril. This isn’t necessarily the laity’s fault, you understand. Sometimes it is mine. Regardless, in any person’s world, finding truly authentic relationships is hard to do… especially for an introverted clergy person like myself.
During my 12-week leave I only spent time with people who did not know me as Pastor Joe (as short a list as it is… see lesson #1). I spent no time with any laity, past or present. I discovered a different person in me. I liked it. It was calming. It was freeing. It felt more natural. I realized that I had been doing something wrong for 23 years. I need to be more in touch with who I am, not what I’m doing. It has developed a strong feeling in me that all clergy should take their UM Discipline invoked Leaves. Do it right and it will really matter to you. I promise. (And I know a pastor who is looking to help fill-in during your time away… he’s awesome).
One goal for the 12-week summer leave was to make a new, authentic friend. I failed. The reason is obvious. I don’t know how to make friends. My job has a built-in structure for meeting people and making ‘friends’. And since I have existed in that structure all my adult life, I have never learned what it means to make friends apart from my job. Insert sigh here. Another embarrassing moment (see lesson #3 for the 1st).
If you are feeling sorry for me, then feel sorry for most introverted clergy who are overwhelmed by their job. Take the church away and we become socially awkward. I don’t know how to be just another person in the crowd. My label has carried me in almost all social contexts. It’s time that stopped.
Spend time with authentic relationships. Find people who don’t care what you do near as much as who you are. I know it’s hard. Some of you will think it’s impossible because you don’t have enough time (you need to read lesson #1 again). Do it anyway. Truth is, I should be spending more time with authentic relationships than time spent filling my various professional roles. I think of everything I've shared in this 4-part series, Jesus would agree with this more than anything else.
Thanks for joining me in this. I hope it was useful. If not, know it was useful to me in sharing it. If you think more or less of me because of my thoughts, see lesson #3. If you think I shouldn’t have made the decision to share this, see lesson #2. And if you want to call me to discuss more (513-463-7378, Mon/Tue/Thu 9-1 or 3-7; all day Saturday and Sunday), see lesson #1.
Joe Royer (who happens to be a Pastor)