The Rev. Gary Brinn writing in the Sayville-Bayport Patch
….This year the choir was excellent, as always, though the whole community has been struggling a bit. It isn’t easy to reconcile the call to be festive with the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, much less the massacre in Newtown. I tried to strike a balance, hope and challenge in the same homily.
At the end of the evening, as the line of folks shaking my hand and wishing me a Merry Christmas wound down, one of the once-a-year crowd stepped up. Instead of wishing me a “Merry Christmas,” he informed me that it was the worst service he had ever attended.
When I attempted to explain our grief, he continued to chastise. And then he was gone. I bit my tongue and didn’t sat what I wanted to, that someone who shows up once a year and does not contribute in any way to the life of the community really doesn’t have a right to criticize how we worship.
… here is a list of some of the things your pastor may (or may not) wish she (or he) could say. No doubt she or he has their own list. If you listen well, you might just see “between the lines.”
1) … when you assume I’m an idiot who just doesn’t understand, I’m gritting my spiritual teeth and remembering Christ’s humility. I’m smiling, but only on the outside.
2) Your offering is not a tip for a good sermon, nor are you paying for services rendered. … Failure to give appropriately is a spiritual problem. I know, and I am praying for you.
3) You probably think I only work an hour a week, because that is how often you see me. But that one hour a week took hours of preparation. … [besides his other work]
4) Oh, and about Sunday morning… I have been “on,” like rock concert “on,” all morning. I’m smiling and being social, but I’m actually fried. (One list described this as being “Beyonce at a concert on” and appeared in the Dirty Sexy Ministry blog by The Rev. Laurie Brock and The Rev. Mary Koppel. I’m not very Beyonce, so I’ve changed the reference slightly…). You know that important thing you needed to tell me as you shook my hand and headed off to brunch? I forgot it, along with the important things eight other people told me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to, but you better write it down, send it in an email, or leave me a message for when I get back in the office. I think it is important because you think it is important, but I’ve already forgotten it.
5) I work for God. I know it sounds insane, but that’s it, flat out. … I didn’t accept this call to make money. I accepted it because I couldn’t say “no” to God any longer. ….And I’m on your team by choice. If I stop challenging you, you’ll know that I am either exhausted or scared. Neither is good for you or the church you love.
6) Speaking of scared, I’d like to keep my job. … trying to please God and middle management and every person sitting in the pews. I need your prayers, and possibly a good therapist…
7) I care more about the regulars. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do. You know, the one’s who show up in the pouring rain, there for every fund raiser and Bible study. When a perfect stranger shows up demanding the rites of the church and treating me like I’m an unfortunate prop in their personal movie, it’s a problem. She may be your granddaughter, but she hasn’t been inside of a church, except as a bridesmaid, in years. She may promise to raise that child as a Christian, but you and I both know she’s not going to get up on Sunday morning. I’m having serious theological qualms about this, I’m just not telling you.
8) When you insist on “the way we do things in this church,” I’m wondering when you stopped worshiping a living God and started worshiping a building and its resident bureaucracy. ….
9) Finally, I am human. Really. That nasty comment you made on your way out the door? It hurt. ….
What secrets do you know?