Readings for the Feast Day of Timothy, Titus, and Silas, companions of Paul:
Timothy, Titus, and Silas, at one time or another, were sidekicks of Paul in his ministry, as well as being responsible for a few ministries themselves. In that vein, celebrating them on our feast calendar is a great reminder that not only do we need sidekicks in ministry, we also need to learn to be flexible about being sidekicks in ministry.
One of the things I continue to learn in my postulancy is the fine art of bouncing back and forth from the role of “the priest’s sidekick” to being handed a leadership role. As a person being “formed in place” some of my formation is simply about tagging along with my local mentoring priest as she goes about her various tasks in the life of the parish.
Very recently I assisted with the training of the new people who will be serving as lectors, chalice bearers, and acolytes. It was clearly not my job to be the teacher but to be versatile in at least five roles: Demonstrator of a good example, demonstrator of a bad example, illustrator, patient helper, and “Anything else I ought to mention, Maria?” Yet on occasion I am handed leadership tasks where I am challenged to reflect on the best way to invite others into our community life, with some self-reflection on “my style” and what is comfortable or uncomfortable to me or what does or doesn’t come naturally. Preaching, teaching a newcomer’s class, and making pastoral visits in absence of the priest come to mind there.
What I’ve learned in those jumps is there are times that the task or the interactions can run like a well-oiled machine; other times…well…the phrase “holy sandpaper” comes to mind.
Our tendency, I suspect, is to imagine Timothy, Titus, and Silas all getting along swimmingly all the time, but the truth is, we know that didn’t happen. They each had their own style; they came from different backgrounds; they most certainly each had their own agendas. They were probably asked by Paul to do things they’d rather not do at times (I seriously doubt when Paul brought up that whole circumcision thing in our reading from Acts today, that Timothy said, “Oh, I’m all about that, when do we go see the mohel? Can we go tomorrow?”) but they learned from the experience. (I feel pretty grateful that the things I’ve been asked to do by my priest that were out of my comfort zone were not this extreme, by the way.)
Yet, at the same time, it’s clear Paul learned from them, too, and his love for them throughout the Epistles rings true and clear. Their loyalty to Paul is equally clear. I think of one of the participatory memes that makes the rounds on social media now and again, that goes something like this: “You and your best friend wake up in a jail cell; in three words, what do you say?” I like to think Silas would say, “This. Is. Awesome.”
What have you learned from being someone’s sidekick in ministry? When is a time you were nominally in charge, but your sidekick taught you something?