Ministries of Misery

So I finished my Ord exam today (whoopeee!) and am now back in that blissful state known as pure summer… which means that i finally have time to write a bit of substance.  So what has been on my mind?  Lots of things, actually.  Due to exegesis exam, for starters, my mind is focused quite a bit on questions of justice and fairness (which in turn makes me think of Rawl’s “Justice as Fairness,” a classic in modern philosophy which I practically inhaled in college).  Also due to the exegesis exam, I have been thinking a bit about hospitality.  I say this not because of the question offered in the theology exam on the christian practice of hospitality, but based upon an experience I had while turning in my exegesis exam to the Office of Ministry Studies at HDS.

The details aren’t necessarily important, but the gist of it was a question I found myself asking as I left the room-  how does one minister to others in the context of work?  Yes, it is indeed true that we all have bad days, or that it is difficult to come back into the bustle after a long and luxurious vacation, but the question remains: how?  My experience today informed my impressions about the Office of Ministry Studies in a way that made me feel unwelcomed and uncared about.  What about new people, or folks who don’t have the benefit of knowing a person well enough to see when they might be having a bad day or a rough transition back into work?

I know I was on the administration end of the same thing this summer, for it was often the case that I was tired out of my mind and conveyed precisely that message to others in my way of relating.  For me, the issue is therefore one in which I am aware of how I feel when others treat me less than hospitably, paired with a desire to not induce the same feeling in others.  I know that I am called to welcome others and to be a presence that reflects Christ, but it gets freakin’ hard when you are sick or exhausted or burnt out.  Those are the moments when I feel my most challenged (I know I am not alone!)  So how do I, as my friend Steve put it, resist the tendency to project a ministry of misery and instead maintain an air of hospitality in the face of my own demons?
It is a question I will struggle with, I am sure, my whole ministry.  Still, I put it out there… how do you (whomever you are) deal with your demons?

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2 thoughts on “Ministries of Misery

  1. Hi Sarah, Just websurfing re: ordination exams this evening and came across your blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed skimming through the posts! I’m a reader this year and, having finally worked my way through the resource papers, I’d be real interested in some feedback about the ords. To my mind some of the questions sucked some serious dirt. i.e. they were worded poorly. I’ve been a PC(USA) pastor for 28 years, have a BA in history and a Master’s in Education, plus my D. Min work, along with a fair amount of post-grad stuff. Point: I’m pretty good at reading and writing, but I had to shake my head over some of these questions. Also, I noticed that several responders mention Dan Miglior’s book and Shirley’s CCL book as good preparation. Did anyone mention Barth to you guys? (III/3 is his doctrine of Providence) Or John Leith’s work? Or the GA paper Is Christ Divided? I wonder because these were the references given to me as a reader, and I’m sure the other readers will utilize them (along with, hopefully, reviewing Institutes I/16-18). Anyway, just curious. (Oh, regarding Calvin: please, sometime, work your way through Barth’s Dogmatics II/2. The most magnificent exposition of predestination/election ever! If you had problems with Calvin (as I did), you owe it to yourself to read Barth.) Hang in there! God bless!

  2. THanks James… I am aware of Leith (who wrote an awesome book on Calvin in the 70s) as well as Barth’s Dogmatics (are you referring to the divine yes with your enthusiasm? If so, I agree that it is pretty awesome)…. to be honest, it is difficult to comprehend rereading the dogmatics as final prep for ords, although i am sure it would be helpful. personally I have some of my own issues with Barth (as well as Calvin, to be honest), but overall I find them to be useful and insightful theologians, inspiring even in many places.

    I have not honestly read the GA paper, although I will now that you have recommended it.

    Blessings on your reading of all those papers; your job is likely as difficult as ours was.

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