It is a beatiful day for writing a blog. The sun is shining, good weather is forecast, my husband is away helping lead a day long grief and loss seminar, I have only a few chores to do around the house and a bulletin for church to produce today. Ahhhh, maybe a little down time for myself after a super busy few days of travelling to Diocesan meetings far from here.
I have been pondering some of the more interesting relationships that exist between priests and their congregations. Today I am thinking of our housing situations. In our province our denomination is still in possession of a fair number of aging rectories for their priests to live in.
Rectories are a good news/bad news kind of deal.
The good news is that for people like us who can't afford to purchase our own home, a place is provided. The good news for the vestries in our case is that they don't have to do the extra paper work required to give us a housing allowance or worry about how far away from the church building we may choose to live. Our rectory is attached to the church so they keep us close. Since people here are very considerate of our privacy we are blessed indeed. The good news for us is that we don't pay any rent or utility bills because of the way the finances are set up here. We don't have to go through the steps of paying and then reclaiming that many church leaders have to do. The house was a filthy mess when my husband first arrived here but the congregation worked with him for an entire month to scrub and clean so that my asthma and I could live in it.
The bad news about rectories is that they are left to the availabilities of church volunteers to be maintained, upgraded and otherwise looked after. Volunteers can be committed, faithful folk who give lovingly and constantly of their time to keep the rectories in the kind of condition that they themselves would want to live in. The bad news is that scenario is becoming more rare. Too many church leaders are left living in conditions that not one of their own parishioners would agree to live in themselves. All around us we see rectories with ever growing legions of mold, torn carpeting, broken windows, dangerously out of code stairways, leaking rooves, broken appliances, mouse infestations, and carpet stains remaining from who knows how many doggies and pot bellied pigs, kitties and ferrets, and what have you pets adored and coddled by former residents.
My husband and I are pretty much blessed in our rectory. When an issue arises we usually don't have long to wait for a volunteer to help us out, or to receive permission from vestry to call in an expert to repair the problem. There are some issues outstanding as there are in any home built in the 1950's, but we have confidence that we are sufficiently cared for by our congregations that as necessary fixes continue to crop up we will not be left in a mess waiting for years for repairs. We have not been met with attitudes that say "tough for you" or "suck it up preacher man" or "who do you think you are making demands on us for your own comfort??". Not every pastor is so fortunate.
So how do you care for your pastors? How do you contribute to giving them the moral support they need to continue to meet your spiritual needs? Do you pray for them? Do you attend the church and Bible studies and contribute to the life of the spiritual community, or do you show up only when you need to be married, baptized or buried with an expectation of being served without contributing? Do you tithe so that your leaders have sufficient funds to do the very things you demand they do or do you not think about the financial costs of maintaining the programmes you want to attend? Do you ever think about your pastors' living conditions? If your church has a rectory for the pastor to live in do you ever wonder if the place is fit for human habitation and how you could assist occasionally to ensure that it remains so? Do you see your pastor as a fellow brother in Christ with whom you share the ministry or are you a consumer only, taking what the pastor has to offer with no thought of how you can walk alongside and share together in what God is doing in the world?
Whatever issues my husband and I have personally in regard to our own care here they are small ones, and we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be ministering in our particular congregations. It took us awhile to understand how to ask for what we need, but now when we do we get help more quickly. Our people are working with us. What about your pastors? Are you walking together in community making sure that the pastor you hired is able to be free to concentrate on caring for your own spiritual needs and not distracted by problems that could be solved easily with a bit of help from yourself?
Just something to think about.........I have been since recently seeing what some colleagues are having to deal with in their rectories.
Who pastors the pastor where you live and worship?