Friday, December 20, 2013

“The Snit Hitting My Plans” – The Joys of Communication, and the Lack Thereof

The face has been changed to protect the...whomever.
I’ve been yelled at before. But it was the first time I’d been spit on—at least while seated at my desk in the church office; I’d actually been spit on before, but that’s another story for another time. This time was inadvertent, an unintended side-effect. She was simply frothing in fury and, as she spat out her words, a bit of sputum was inadvertently expectorated upon me as she stood and shouted across my desk.
Her charges against me centered on my willful disregard of a parishioner’s needs. The member had been ill, hospitalized, and recovering over the past several weeks, and I had not made so much as a single appearance at her bedside. That was all true, of course. In fact, my last visit with that elderly woman had been at her going-away party, after helping her to pack to move closer to her children (as I recall the reason) roughly six hours away on the coast of Northern California. She had not, in fact, moved, though. Except to a room in our local hospital a day or so after her party. Not that anyone thought I needed to be told that, of course.
This is not what Proverbs 25:11ff means.
Fair enough that the woman verbally excoriating me couldn’t know that I didn’t know. That’s what Pastor-Parish Relations Committees are for, you know.
Here’s one of the faulty assumptions I’ve seen people make during the thirty-plus years I’ve served in the church: Pastors know everything. We have a prayer-life unlike that of mere mortals, in which the Holy Spirit guides and informs us on the conditions and circumstances of those for whom we have ministerial responsibility. There is no need to inform the pastor through natural means (telephone, e-mail, post-it notes), since they are supernaturally attuned to God’s agenda, which clearly includes every member in every need receiving an immediate call from the senior or solo pastor.
Fair enough that everyone imagines someone else will tell me everything. That’s simply motivation to increase the frequency of my random pastoral visitation.
Among things I was apparently supposed to know this week: Our congregation’s deacons’ fund (labeled “benevolent fund” in some churches) has been sitting at $40 for some months now (not nearly enough to assist with a family’s funeral expenses—their dad and mom died within fifteen minutes of each other, and the family doesn’t have enough cash-on-hand to cover either, much less both). I found this out when I called to leave voice-mail for our deacons (in our small congregation, just one board-appointed couple), in hopes that they might check messages while apparently gone on one of the multi-week trips some of our retirees often take. Only when his wife answered the phone did I get the news that they weren’t leaving until the following day, and that the reason I hadn’t seen them in church the past few weeks was that they had decided to attend elsewhere.
...or that area, or any area, preferably.
Fair enough that they assumed I would eventually figure this out on my own. That’s why I should delegate more things more often to the deacons (once we have some again).
Of course, it may be that this information was going to be shared with me at our monthly board meeting this past Monday night. But without an agenda, or any other participants besides our treasurer, the two of us in attendance reviewed the budget for next year, especially the missions-giving proposals, and the need to approve advertising our Christmas Eve service in the local papers. When speaking to our board secretary two days later, I referred to the minimal attendance and the “unofficial” nature of any decisions due to a lack of quorum. She seemed surprised that neither the treasurer nor I had been told that the chairman canceled the meeting.
"Don't pick your nose in the library."
Fair enough that we would realize that when no one else showed up. That’s when I could have rejoiced in the “found time” in my schedule, except that I’d used it up by calling the chairman and other board members, listening to each of their cheery voice-mail greetings. (I must note, though, the one pleasant exception being the Elder I called to get additional phone numbers.)
At least for the past several weeks I’ve had a little respite from some of the responsibilities in my doctoral program. Around Thanksgiving my research and writing for the two major papers this year were put on hold pending clarifications and further instructions from the professor leading our track. This “found time” has really helped me finish up the last of the online postings for the course I’m teaching this Spring. Today’s goal: getting the last of the written materials polished and uploaded onto “Moodle,” our online course platform for Tozer. Tomorrow: recording the first of the lectures that will be included in the course.
So…what am I doing procrastinating with a blog-post?
"The Sympathy Symphony"
Well, I’m not so much procrastinating as I am processing. It seems other students in my doctoral program were informed of the changes, clarifications, and additional requirements back on the eighth of December. I’ve re-checked the online discussion form, the news forum, and my e-mails on the hard-drive, and both universities’ servers. Nothing there. In fact, I only knew to ask what others were talking about because they had posted their observations on some of the new details that had been shared with them.
Fair enough that word would eventually trickle-down to me before I leave for the end-of-year grand-children tour. That’s how “theology-in-community” works. Checking-in on the discussions, noticing the allusions to the changes, and now incorporating them into something other than the paper I thought I was going to write. I just need to pack along the laptop. (My grandchildren are young; they nap.) And I should be glad to have found out in time to do the additional research. And…
Don't you wish you'd chosen to? You could turn back.
Well, that’s more rant than you want to read. Whatever vestiges of my sense of humor may have led you this far have been exhausted. So…
Is there a point to any of this? Yes, I believe there is.
You see, on the eve of the auction dismantling what remains of my aunt and uncle’s estate, there are other reasons for the snit I’m in. All of this week’s events followed the revelation late last week that efforts toward dismissing me from one of my teaching positions (Adjunct Professor with A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary, overseen by Simpson University) not only flowed from the university’s Interim President through the Provost, only stopping at the desk of the new dean of the Seminary because he dared to ask, “On what grounds am I supposed to dismiss him?” Among the first questions posed by the university’s chairperson of the board upon meeting the new dean was, “What are you going to do about Bill Myers?” 
Yes, really.
...and also when they won't.
Fair enough that six-figure-salaried administrators need to focus on whether an Adjunct Professor is worthy of his $1845.00 (that’s the total stipend for teaching Old Testament: Kings & Prophets this Spring). That’s why I insist that “speaking the truth in love” has to begin with “speaking the truth.”
But that’s also why, maybe, considering the source(s), I should actually wish for a little less communication. At least until we’re ready to speak the truth.
If you’re done with me being your pastor, your professor, your co-instructor, guest-lecturer, chaplain, protégé, student, friend, or whatever else I may be or have been…well, let’s pretend just a little longer, shall we? At least until after the holidays. But then, whether loving or not, say it, would you? 
Proverbs 27:5-6a: “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” And refreshing would be the candor of any of the above.


Pastor Greg said...

Fair enough! Thanks for sharing Bill. I have also felt a little out of the loop over the last couple of years in some fairly profound ways. Which on the upside means I can't be accused of being loopy. I would much rather people would speak the truth than look at you with the "smile that doesn't reach to their eyes." I read a study today that evaluates the most irritating words of the year. For the third year and a row, and still gathering momentum the winner is, "whatever." I think after reading your post, "fair enough" might be "whatever" in disguise.

Wm. Darius Myers said...

Maybe I should start responding to the various rants on Facebook and e-mail with "Fair enough," and see if it catches on. Thanks for the comment, Greg!

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