Sunday, July 05, 2009

Advice to New Pastors

Jason Goroncy, on his blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem, has recently culled together four posts written by William H Willimon, and given them the collective title: Advice to New Pastors.

One of Willimon's main themes here is what might be called the 'cultural divide' between ministers freshly minted from seminary, and their congregations. Each often talks a different language, and have to learn how to hear each other. The ministers have to learn how congregations function, how this particular social group works, what its needs are and so forth; many of the things learnt in the seminary will not have prepared the minister for this.

In talking about his first congregation he writes:
I was impressed that they knew more about some things than I. Mostly, they talked and thought with the Bible. They easily, quite naturally referred to Scripture in their conversation, freely using biblical metaphors, sometime referring to obscure biblical texts that I had never read. If they had not read the masters of my thought – Bultmann, Tillich, and Barth, then I had no way to speak to them. I had been in a world that based communicating upon conversations about the thought of others, rather than worrying overmuch about my own thoughts. I realized that my divinity school had made me adept in construing the world psychologically, sociologically (that is, anthropologically) rather than theologically. The only conceptual equipment my people had was that provided by the church, whereas most of my means of making sense were given to me by the academy. Their interpretation of the world was not simply primitive, or simple, or na├»ve, as I first thought. Rather they were thinking in ways that were different from my ways of thinking. I came to realize that we were not simply speaking from different perspectives and experiences; it was as if we were speaking across the boundaries of two different worlds.

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