What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Some of things I'd wish I'd learned in seminary

1. It's not what you know, but who you know. Theology and Bible can get you a lot of places, but if you want to get to know the neighborhood of your church, you have to know the right people to show you the ropes.
2. As obnoxious as it may sound, make sure to get the money upfront for non-member weddings and funerals. (This is the #1 advice I received from local ministers when I asked how their churches handle weddings - I couldn't believe how many mentioned this right off the bat!).
3. A good graphic artist who is willing to design things for the church is essential to the life of your congregation.
4. Fixing broken toilets and snaking out clogged drains may not be included in your job description, but you'd better learn how to do it fast.
5. Always make sure that there is water in the baptismal font before the baptism begins.
6. If you're going to hand out candy during a children's sermon, do it at the end. If you do it at the beginning all you'll hear about is the candy.
7. Donuts with powder on top are nice to eat, but they really make a mess.
8. Don't ever pay a contractor the full amount until the job is entirely finished. Guess who spent last weekend putting the finishing touches on the paint job in the church kitchen?
9. Always check and make sure that zippers are in the 'up and locked' position and any buttons are properly affixed before walking into worship.
10. If you don't know an answer to a question, don't make it up. Let the person know that you don't know the answer (even if you feel like a schmuck for not knowing it), and that you'll get back to him or her with the answer next week.


At 10:30 AM, Blogger Scribe said...

Your #5 reminds me of the time when I was on internship & the pastor forgot to put water in the font. He had a look of horror on his face, and then, well, he faked it! Later, after the worship...he redid the baptism using actual water. Now I ask, which baptism was the true one? I say the one in community with the invisible water.

P.S. You've got spam comments, Ann.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger `tim said...

Good list...Especially number 9 -- made that mistake once, fortunately it was an alzheimers ward, no one probably remembers but me.

I'll argue with #2 though. My policy is that I don't set an amount but suggest they pay the minister the same payment they'd give any other wedding/funeral professional (i.e. florist, etc.) Of course, no one ever pays the same for a minister that they pay for flowers or pictures, but it makes people think. I also make it clear that I don't do weddings and funerals for the money - usually find that non-church people pay WAY better than church people. Go figure.

Grace and Peace,

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Ann said...

I agree with you about #2. I haven't set any specific amount, but unfortunately the last time I didn't adress any sort of renumeration then went out of my way and didn't even get enough to reimburse the gas expense. I certainly didn't do it for the money, but it did leave me a little frustrated.

Sometimes I get the sense that people kind of take ministers for granted, and that is a real shame. Perhaps we need to do a better job of explaining why ministerial services are important. In the latest issue of Context there's an article about people going out and getting an internet ordination in order to officiate at a friend's wedding. I found it interesting. Perhaps I can uncover the article and post it for you to read.

Thanks for the comments!

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Ann said...

I agree with you Scott that the baptism in the community is the true one. I wonder if it would fall under the ex opera operatao understanding of sacraments or not. Does it take the community or the physical water for the sacrement to have been performed? Which element is more important for the work to have been worked?

And do you think that the second baptism if it was done without the community could be true at all?

Also, do you think that the second one would constitute rebaptism?

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Jarred said...

I'm curious. Do you get many people who don't go to your church, but ask you to perform their wedding? If so, what's the reasoning behind it?

I guess I find it strange. Being someone who doesn't attend church, I can't imagine asking a minister of a church I don't attend (which at this point would be any minister) to perform my wedding.

Was my old college chaplain's observation that people ask a minister to marry them just because "that's the way weddings are done" truer than I realized?

At 11:48 PM, Blogger `tim said...

I minister in a small congregation, in a rural community, in the midst of a glut of churches, and yet I'm asked to do weddings and funerals on a relatively regular basis.

My experience is that, yes, it's because "that's the way weddings are done." We're even asked, on occasion, if I can do the wedding and we can do it at the church were I minister....because even many non-church-goers somehow feel weddings "ought" to be done in churches.

For us, there are two basic hurdles (although they both usually end up on my lap.) The first is that our consistory (board) must approve any (and all) use of the sactuary. The second is that I have a wedding policy that they must be willing to accept. It basically gives a short overview of what I consider marriage to be and what my requirements are (that they attend 6-8 pre-marital sessions with me, etc....)

It's odd to me, but then, there are a LOT of odd things in ministry!

Grace and Peace,

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Scribe said...

I think that the first baptism, the communal welcome and affirmation was the only legitimate one. And yet, if it were me, I probably would have appeased the parents and re-baptized the child with H2O. So much of our baptismal theology is left-over Catholic superstition - "Get that baby wet before God sends it to hell!"

On the other hand, I am terribly Zwinglian when it comes to sacraments, and don't get too worked up over this stuff. In a small church, giving a young couple a bit of psychological peace is no big deal to me. If handled right, one would then have years of ministry left to lead them to deeper, healthier truths about God and the sacraments. If handled wrongly, you might never see them again.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Ann said...

I've been amazed how explaining baptism to parents makes a huge difference in the way they understand what's going on. We had a couple who wanted to have a private baptism for their son at their summer home five hours away. When I explained that it was important for the congregation to make vows to the child, they thought for a second and then "got it." They had always wanted to have the baptism at their lake, so they said, "hey, could the whole congregation just come up for the weekend? We could have a great time together."

Ahh, some times being a pastor is the best thing in the world. Of course, we still haven't gone up to the lake, but at least I know that the family understands importance of the baptismal vows for congregational life.


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