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Sometimes it is important to say something positive and uplifting about the many pastors serving in our churches across both our country and the world. These men and women too often work for a small salary with few benefits, while being expected to perform almost herculean tasks. Pastors will not "toot their own horns," so let me at least try.

Recently, I was struck by a devotion written by Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins that was printed in a religious publication. It seems he had hired a window contractor to perform some work for him and was surprised when the contractor finished and was ready to leave. Knowing that he was a pastor, the contractor turned to Riggins and asked him to "bless" him. That was a first for Riggins, but he went ahead and blessed him anyway. Then, he started to do a biblical check to see if Jesus had done anything like this.

Sure enough, Mr. Riggins discovered that Jesus had indeed blessed his disciples when they were leaving. Luke 24:44-53 (NRSV) says, "Then he [Jesus] {brackets mine} led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."

As we prepare to leave the church following a worship service, my pastor often stands amongst the people and offers this blessing from II Corinthians 13:14 (NIV), "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." How about your pastor?

Pastors are asked to bless many things, even animals. Now, I have to confess, while I deeply love all of God's creatures, I have had trouble "blessing" animals. God did not create animals in His image, give them a "soul," and did not send His son to die for them. This God did for human beings. However, today many clergy-persons do indeed bless animals and other things like buildings, social gatherings, inanimate objects, and so on. My wife and I deeply love our little dog, and she surely is a blessing to us, and we would bless her if we could.

Consider the life of a clergy-person. They do not work 40-hour weeks. Indeed, they work more like 60-plus hours a week, sometimes without even a day off (not two days off). An active church pastor may well have as many as three (and often many more) services to conduct each week, each with a different theme, but all rooted in the Word of God (the Bible). Now, that may not sound like a difficult task, but try it sometime for 52 weeks out of the year. Yes, that's 156 services a year that are all different, and you can't repeat them the following year either.

During the 11 years of my last pastorate, I performed around 30 or more weddings a year. Each one involved at least six hours of pre-marital counseling, and since no one seemed to want to get married on one of my working days, it also meant my performing the service on a Friday night or Saturday. Funerals are different. People die at different times, but everyone deserves the right to a funeral, and these may occur at any time.

Now, let's add a few other things a pastor normally does: baptizing babies and adults; overseeing a staff, complete with weekly meetings; leading services at nursing and retirement homes; giving prayers at public meetings; writing columns for the newspaper; setting aside some time for prayer and Bible study; developing sermons; helping a spouse with household duties and handling children; and being on-call for any contact 24/7. Oh, did I mention being present any time there is a church activity involving fellowship and food? I have always said that if a pastor does not know his or her way around the church's kitchen, perhaps he or she should not be preaching the next Sunday. And, by the way, pastors are never supposed to call in sick on a Sunday.

In addition to the above, pastors are expected to set a spiritual and moral presence for everyone around them. So, if you think a pastor has it easy and only works a few hours a week, try walking in his or her shoes for a week. If you do, you'll learn a few things and greatly appreciate the opportunity to collapse for a few moments of rest when the opportunity occurs.

• • •

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the fire department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 06/06/2018

Print Headline: The Chaplain's Perspective

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