You cannot learn to be a pastor, someone who is involved in the pastoral work of the Church, who is concerned with both the spiritual and physical welfare of her or his "flock." You have to be a person who wants to stop the hurting and make people happy without regard for rules, regulations and "the way we have always done things." You have to be prepared to help people no matter what affect doing so might have on your own future. You have to want to bring comfort so much that you do not want to move to a more prestigious post that would restrict your opportunity for pursuing your calling. You rarely find a person in the higher positions of the Church who has the charism of pastorship.

There are many charisms. The pastoral calling is only one of many. It is no better or worse than any other. It's just what you have to do. However, the fact that the charism of administration is so highly regarded in the Church is problematical. The gifts of the powerful tend to usurp the gifts of the less powerful and become the shot-calling gifts. If an administrator comes to believe that his or her task is more important in the Church than the tasks of the pastor then people get hurt. This is because administrators place expediency and what they perceive as the common good above the good of the individual.

It may be that a person cannot be both an administrator and a pastor. That is okay as long as they know it within themselves and delegate to others the tasks they are not qualified to deal with effectively. However, this involves publicly accepting that you are not good at something. That's difficult enough in the secular world, but in the Church, where ministers are expected to be able to do everything well and where inability is viewed as a great weakness, it is nigh on impossible. Personally, I think the only way to solve this dilemma is to return to the early Church understanding of the charismatic, as propounded in the epistles of Paul, where each charism is regarded as a calling in itself. For various reasons the modern day Church expects its office holders to be adept in many charisms and in some cases, such as the post of bishop, these expected charisms can be contradictory. Therefore, we need to decide what we want our office holders to provide for us and then choose the people for the job. This would mean giving many of the responsibilities currently invested in certain posts to others in posts we have chosen to be bearers of those responsibilities. For example we may decide that a bishop should primarily be a pastor. In which case we should remove from the post of bishop the responsibility for the, often, contradictory task of administration which, in turn, should become the responsibility of an office holder called because they have the charism of administration.

We could only achieve this sensible rationalisation of the offices of the Church if we take to heart Saint Paul's central message regarding the abilities given to individuals by the Spirit. That is to accept that they are all equal; equally valid, equal in status and equally valued by God and the people of God.



  1. I remember years ago our Diocesan Bishop at that time announced his plans to retire. The diocese asked for nominations of those who would stand for election to succeed him.

    To assist in the process a job description was published describing our diocese and listing the qualifications. It actually stated that we were looking for a Pastor and a CEO! I found that remarkable since my then full-time employment in the corporate world demonstrated to me that one didn’t usually go to one’s Chief Executive with personal problems.

    Needless to say the person we elected as our new Diocesan was unable to live up to such expectations. Both the Bishop and the diocese suffered because of that.

    Fortunately in the search for our current Diocesan we were wise enough to look for a healer and a leader (qualities that are _not_ in conflict).

  2. HI MP, I remember a time when I was inspired by a priest here in Guilford, CT – he would often say how much he disliked all the administrative stuff as it took time from his ministry of caring for ‘the flock’. His co-pastor used the ‘cat ‘n’ nine tails’ approach – I know, I felt the sting.
    Love and high regard to you

  3. Very true; I know of one church situation where the postholder was told that they were very happy for him to stay on, but *only* if he would agree to delegate the administrative aspects of the role to someone else! There’s also the time issue; no one can keep on doing everything for ever. My husband (nonconformist clergyman) is in fact both a good pastor and a good administrator, but he sees the pastoral work as more important in his present post – hence the church has been persuaded to employ an administrator. Not an option for all churches, I know, but it works for us (the congregation, as well as him and me).

  4. And it’s not just those in higher office as a couple of comments above have noted. The ordination charge to the priesthood is completely impossible to fulfil, and I have to say that Ive never tired. I’ve always been open about those aspects of “vicaring” that I’m not good at. Mind you, there isn’t much left after I’ve gone through the list …….

  5. I think that perhaps you mean “never tried,” SR. But on the other hand I can see how a healthy, virile, young priest like yourself would never “tire,” so perhaps that is what you meant. 🙂