Thursday, May 3, 2007

How Come You Don't Have Any Friends?

A colleague has written in her blog about a friend's anger ... a friend somewhere my colleague used to live, but does not now that she has moved to be with the congregation she serves.
Ah yes, ministry, a place for deep relationships in each place you are ... and no relationships at all when you retire. Well not quite, but man, it can be lonely out here.
You spend years with people, becoming deeply fond of many of them. Then you move. Not only do you not have contact with them any more, you should not. There is another minister there now, and if they are to develop the best possible relationships with that new minister, their energies are best used there, where they are, with the minister they now have. All energy they spend maintaining their relationship with you, now that you are distant, is energy they are not spending where they are, with the people they are now with.
And the same is true for you, the minister, the mover. If, once in your new place, you use a lot of your time/soul energy maintaining distant friendships, you will not be using that energy to make new friendships where you are. And it is very lonely, in a Thich Nat Han sense, not being where you are.
It is often very hard for those "left behind" to understand this. They are not in a new physical place, and so do not usually have the expectation that they should need to use some of their time/soul energy to make a new friend now that you have gone. The void looms large. And all the worse because you are a "minister" which means you must never hurt anyone. And just look how you hurt me. Righteous anger often follows this progression. ::sigh::
To confuse matters even more, while people think they think about ministers as counsellors, teachers, preachers, etc., way at the back of the head what's going on is "father, mother, sister, brother, wife, husband, mistress, son, daughter, lover ... " Whatever one fits best.
That's one reason there's so much trouble when the new minister is more than 15 years younger than the last one. Whole generations of people go from a minister who was father to one who is contemporary; from one who was a contemporary to one who is a son or daughter. Yikes. Let alone those whose minister fit the lover, mistress mode in the stuff of dreams. They've been ditched, abandoned, breach of promise!
For the ministers, meanwhile, there is a landscape left behind, littered with former friends into whose lives we no longer fit. But not necessarily many where we now are. I cannot express the unbearable depth of loneliness this can be.


ms. kitty said...

Ah, Juffie, you do know how it is and I appreciate your words.

kim said...

Wow, makes me glad that I got talked out of becoming a minister (by my minister, when I was a teen.)

LinguistFriend said...

I recall how I first encountered
the protocol of separation from a previous congregation by a departing UU minister, and felt how awkward it was. Recently I was reminded of it when a minister departing from a nearby UU church which I visit at times stated his coming separation from the congregation. I suspect that his departure will bring out much strength in the congregation which held back in the presence of a very strong minister. Your comments formulate well another dimension of the issue in terms of the character of the ministers in transition. Thank you.

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