FROM REV TOM’S DESK
I was talking to someone the other day and the nature of being a Minister in a church came up. This coming December, I will actually pass my 26th year of being a nationally ordained Minister in the PCANZ so I’ve been around for a while fulfilling this calling that God gave to me. So as we talked, I thought about just how much Parish ministry for a Minister had changed.
I know that in the sixties, because I’ve been told by folks who knew, a Minister’s role was predominantly one of a pastoral nature. It was considered that all a Minister needed to do was take Sunday services, baptise infants, celebrate marriages and take funerals along with making sure that everyone was visited very regularly.
Of course in those days, which are only 60-odd years ago, society in NZ was very different from today. For one thing, a household generally had only one income provider, few had TV, more than one car in a family was virtually unheard of. In my part of the world at the time, no-one went overseas for holidays unless you were wealthy, and most folks had very simple camping holidays, if they were able to go away at all. Kids walked to school or rode bikes without fear of being interfered with. Back doors of houses were often left unlocked and Jelly-tip ice-creams were a lot bigger and cost 6d!! (an important point of interest for a kid at the time!).
The world has changed, and with that so has the role of being a Minister. In the seventies and eighties, there was a shift from a Minister being predominantly pastoral to one of leadership. Pastoral visiting is much harder these days too as it happens, not only because fewer people are at home, but if they are, they’re recuperating from their longer and longer work-weeks going way beyond the 40-hour working week our predecessors fought long and hard to gain. Or else they’re out every weekend taking their kids to ballet, bassoon classes, after-hours maths schools, sport fixtures (7-days a week now) or whatever other hobbies etc are available.
Ministers are increasingly in their offices with admin., emails, etc or at meetings in the Parish or beyond these days, with less and less time to visit on a regular basis. Mind you, it is still all good stuff and builds into the Kingdom, but it is just that the world has changed and is changing at an alarming rate with some positive and some negative effects.
We need boundaries. We need fences to help us live our lives to the full but in ways that allow for recreation; building into the soul. Times of refreshing, and play to be with our wives, husbands, kids, grandkids and beyond are crucial and increasingly hard to find. G.K. Chesterton, a great friend of both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien once said something like, ‘Before you remove a fence, ask yourself why it was put there in the first place.’ A lot of our ‘fences’ have been removed without a second thought, and all of our lives have been impacted, many times negatively. God has ‘fences’ for us which he calls His commandments. Get those right, follow them carefully and what you will find is life in abundance. To throw His ‘fences’ away is to invite in everything else which squeezes our very life out whilst all the time we’re trying our darndest to grab some. The world has changed and is changing. We need boundaries.