Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Don't let them pigeon-hole you."

These were the wise words my Hebrew Bible professor, Gwen Sayler, gave to me the weekend of my graduation from seminary. I had just secured my spot in the Central/Southern Illinois Synod through the assignment process, and was excitedly awaiting the next step on my journey to 'pastorhood.'

I knew in my heart that my leadership skills were more conducive to a team ministry setting, and so I prayed that an opportunity like that would open up. As God's grace would have it, I was eventually called to St. Matthew Lutheran church in Urbana, Illinois as "The Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministry and Educaton.'"Almost 4 years later (3 years,10 months, and 8 days--but who's counting) I am still here and LOVING it. However, there are times when the title of my position irks me, and the implications that go with it.

When my Papa (my grandpa on my mom's side) was in the seminary (Augustana-Rock Island, which no longer exists as a seminary) and in parish ministry, the term 'Assistant Pastor' was widely used for a second pastor who wasn't technically the 'Senior Pastor.' Their duties varied, but most people in the congregation viewed the 'Assistant' as just that--an assistant to the Sr. Pastor. Hence, the 'Assistant' wasn't really 'THE Pastor' but a side-kick who helps out 'the REAL' Pastor. Gwen warned me of this, but I never really thought it would bother me until I actually became a real, bonafide pastor. It does. I will admit it.

It bothers me that I have had an equal amount of education and pretty much the same semantics of call as my colleague, yet I am still viewed (to some, not all) as "the assistant." This irritation reared its ugly head again last night during my Confirmation class, as one of my 7th graders said "You're not the Pastor, you're the Associate." It also bothers me in all of our written documentation about our congregation that the names of staff reads:

Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Associate Pastor: Julia Rademacher

Why couldn't read Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Pastor: Julia Rademacher

I even would have less of an issue with it if it just said Senior Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Associate Pastor: Julia Rademacher
The first example just seems to me like my title isn't really a real pastor or something...or maybe I am just think I am right on this one.

I realize that I will not be at St. Matthew forever, and that one day I probably will be a solo pastor or possibly even a Sr. Pastor (although I don't really want to be at this point). I guess I was just hoping that all that hype that was conveyed in sem wasn't going to actually be true. Associates often get a bum rap. It's true. I, fortunately, have a congregation that even though that mindset is around, my colleague doesn't view me as an 'assistant' and MOST of the time, the congregation does view me as one of two pastors.

Yikes. Gwen, bet you never thought I was listening that closely didya.


Miss Em said...

Amen Sister. :) I hear you. You're a great writer.

Thomas said...

This hurts me a lot.
I'm having a hard time finding words for it.

a) I've never thought of you as Pastor Jr. (heh those are you're initials :P, no offense). There's always been equality between you and 'your colleague'. I'll admit it took a bit of warming up to you before I afforded you the same 'confession/confiding' privileges ... if you can call them that. But that was an issue of familiarity, and a lack of trust on my part.
b) I feel enormously at fault for some/most/all of this phenomenon because I was charged with the task, during your call process, of communicating this Associate != Assistant message to the congregation and evidently that has not happened.

If there's a minor bit of good to some out of this, it is that the fury which has ignited in myself, seems to be giving me a clearer head beyond this cold. That's not much good news for you I suppose. Sorry.

Also I find it rather heartbreaking to consider that Jooolia Gooolia may one day not be at STM. This could be the result of some unhealthy attachment disorder. This could be because of a dramatic shift in the way of 'confessional/confidential' relationship development. Regardless, it's a ecclesial separation I'm not comfortable thinking about.

I don't know if this is something you would/have/should bring up with 'your colleague' or not. But it does raise a bit of concern as far as the overall health and unity of the congregational unit goes. Oddly enough I'm not too hurt about that sort of 'virus' in our midst, so much as how it is particularly affecting one of our members, namely you.

your concerns and the biases of those around will be in my prayers,
Tom Jackson