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Sounding Board: Saying 'thank you' for the ways clergy assist

For October, National Clergy Appreciation Month, Bishop Kristen Kuempel of the Intermountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, wrote the following article, noting she includes deacons, as well as pastors, under the term "clergy."

Clergy folk don't go into ministry for the gratitude they expect to receive—which is a good thing, because many clergy don't get much gratitude. At best they avoid criticism, but rarely approach "appreciation."

They're OK with that. God created them to do this ministry, and they love members. A parent doesn't need to be thanked every time they do something for a child. Pastors and deacons don't need to be appreciated for everything they do. In fact, if someone tried that, it would probably freak them out.

That doesn't mean appreciation isn't warranted. So I want to take a little bit of time to share just a few ways I appreciate our pastors and deacons:

I continue to be in awe of the multitude of ways they figured out how to continue church life in the years of the pandemic. It was not easy. The need to innovate was immediate. They had to cannonball into a season of trial and error. In the time of the pandemic, our pastors and deacons showed up over and over again. Thank you.

I am grateful for the fact that they research, plan, write and deliver an original theological dissertation every week. I'm not sure we really appreciate what it takes to pull that off, particularly when so many "other duties as assigned" land on their plate in the course of any given week—funerals, deaths, hospital visits, Bible studies, confirmation classes and more. On those Sundays when I sit and listen to a sermon: I am grateful. Thank you.

Pastors and deacons are incredibly generous with their time. They don't have a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday kind of gig. Which means that when I need them, either as the bishop who needs support in the work of the synod or when I need my own pastor, even with everything else they have on their plate, they give me their time. What a gift! What an act of compassion! Thank you.

They make sure that I am not alone when I'm walking through the valley of the shadow. When my mother was undergoing cancer treatments several years ago, I remember chaplains coming in to check with us, holding us in prayer. They do that every day! For the ways in which pastors and deacons come alongside us in times of trouble. Thank you!

They challenge me in all the very best ways to expand my ideas of what "Church" looks like and where church is located. Their imaginations ignite my imagination, populating our vision of the future with a church that might not look like what we have now, but will have the same spirit and sacramental touchpoints that mean so much to us today. Thank you!

As our world becomes more and more secular, their lives, vocations and work are given less respect and fewer resources. There are fewer folks volunteering to help. There are fewer folks who value the difference spiritual care can make across any number of environments, but pastors and deacons keep working, keep praying, keep loving and preaching, keep teaching and leading. Thank you!

They put up with the people of God, which is mostly awesome, but occasionally really difficult. Thank you!

They forgive our sins in the name of Jesus, and hand us the Body and Blood of Christ. Freely. Thank you!

Take a moment to appreciate the ways in which your pastors and/or deacons show up for you. Don't wait until Hallmark tells us to appreciate them. Our gratitude doesn't need to be elaborate. A post-it note in their mailbox "You're the best! Thank you!" will do more good than you can imagine. I promise you. All the ways clergy show up for us comes at a cost. A cost they knew about. A cost they are willing to pay, but a cost, nonetheless.

A simple expression of appreciation can refill their bucket to overflowing.

To the pastors and deacons of the Northwest Intermountain Synod, I see your hard work and your sacrifice, and I am grateful.

Bishop Kristen Kuempel

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November 2022