Yesterday afternoon, I was able to take part in one of my favorite worship services: the installation of a new pastor. I’m not the first to use this analogy, but the relationship between a pastor and the church he is called to much more closely resembles a marriage than a job/hiring, and the Installation service is very much the wedding.
As worship services go, it’s pretty standard fair most of the way, but the themes heard in the songs and readings chosen echo the great responsibility placed on those called to preach the Good News of salvation, as well as their willingness to walk in those enormous shoes.
My favorite part comes right after the Rite of Installation: other pastors who have gathered for this moment (some from the area, some friends who have traveled for this) surround the new pastor, lay their hands on him and bless him. Usually a scripture is given by each, along with a prayer or word of blessing, but each pastor in turn lays this blessing upon the new pastor. In this way, each pastor is visibly brought into his office not by his own desire or declaration, but by the blessing and authority of his peers. It is a powerful moment to participate in, as well as to witness.
This vocation – being a pastor – is incredibly unique. We are called to be servant-leaders. We are shepherds who are also sheep. We are asked to be Counselors who sometimes need counseling ourselves. We are blessed with the capacity to love and care about even those who refuse it or revolt against it – though we are also human and sinful, and none of us manages this at all times. We can be thanked, complimented and loved, but we will dwell on and lose sleep over a single harsh word. We balance the needs of home with the needs of the members, the staff and the business of the church. It is simultaneously beautiful, ugly, impossible, easy, overwhelming, inspiring, humbling, disappointing, frustrating, rewarding and more adjectives than are in my mind to write at this moment. It is often beyond description.
It is comforting, then, to know that we are not alone in this. We are strengthened by the Holy Spirit, surrounded by the saints, held aloft by countless prayers – and supported by our peers. Even when we disagree on some point of theology or practice, we can still come together and lay hands on a brother as he enters into this sacred relationship – and let him know that we understand what he is about to take on – and that he is not alone.
God bless those who pastor His church, Amen.