This month I will see the 63rd anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. After one has completed college and seminary, a committee composed of clergy and laity determines that, because of one's training and particular talents, he or she is suited to assume the pastoral leadership of a church of churches.
Sixty three years is a pretty big chunk of one's life. In recalling some of those years, which includes serving nine churches in three states, I am painfully aware that there are several things that one is not taught in seminary. Four of them immediately come to mind. I will mention them in the next four editions of "Keynotes."
The first salient truth is that any local church is not necessarily a microcosm of heaven. This truth should be obvious to even a casual observer, but too often it is assumed that ordinary people are transformed into saints once they are accepted into church membership. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The most ardent of church members bring with them all of their idiosyncrasies, phobias, and peculiarities as well as their talents and good intention. The local church might better be seen as a "spiritual hospital" rather than "society of saints".
This realistic, but sometimes painful, assessment of the makeup of the church, would forestall many a disillusionment and would also clarify what the ministry and mission of the church really is. This is not to downgrade the local church or its spiritual task, but should avoid the oft made mistake of assuming spiritual perfection when such was never the claim or intent.
More about this later.
Wilbur Rees is currently Pastor Emeritus at Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland.
Wilbur calls himself a “survivor.” Having weathered the first two and a half decades of a tumultuous life, he went on to complete his education and serve as pastor in four states. He has written numerous article for religious publications and, in addition to this book, is the author of “Three Dollars Worth of God”. He is now retired and lives with his wife in Washington State.