“Pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names still appear on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other Gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries. (Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, 1987, p.1)”
As a minister I often find the nature of parish ministry drawing me away from the discipline of theological reflection. I am not referring to ministry with people in our church who at unexpected and even unwanted times call on us to be their minister. I refer to the business or busyness of ministry that subtly leads me astray. I wrestle with my schedule longing to have more time to reflect and pray and the reality that there are only so many hours in a day or week. I try as best I can to prioritise what I deem important and work hard to allow my week to be formed by my values and not needs or distractions. Nevertheless, this is a tension in which I will always dwell as a parish minister.
It seems that for many of us once we leave our colleges and universities, reflection stops and the work of ministry begins. However, it is within this context that our theological journey takes on a new frontier if we will allow it; that of practical theology! Practical theology is not a theology of method, as Anderson argues, rather it is the, “critical engagement with the interface between the Word of God as revealed through scripture and the work of God taking place in and through the church in the world” (Ray Anderson, The Shape of Practical Theology, 2001, p.8). It is precisely within this tension that reflection takes place.
As I commented on your last post, one of the great blessings of doing an MA while living in San Francisco is that it challenged the livability of my theological education. Portland has been similar. It is another reason why I try to be grounded in a local church. In San Francisco I was highly involved in the life of my local church and in Portland I have finally found such a place. It reminds me to ask questions and seeks application in ways I might forget in the ol’ Ivory Tower (as if I am qualified to reside in such a place)!
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