Coffee, conversations, and God: Pastors share their appreciation
United Methodist pastors have complex jobs. They are preachers, teachers, and administrative leaders. They baptize us, confirm us, and walk with us through some of the more difficult times in life. They laugh, cry, and pray with us.
For Pastor Appreciation Month 2016, we asked United Methodist pastors what they love most about what they do. The job is difficult, but those who are called to pastoral ministry wouldn’t trade it for any other job.
“I get paid to drink coffee and hear stories. What's better than that?” jokes the Rev. Sally Stewart, pastor of Felton-Viola United Methodist Church in Delaware.
Some pastors prefer tea, but many express appreciation for conversations and relationships.
The Rev. Stephen Bauman of Christ Church United Methodist in New York City shares, “I get to have conversations with people about stuff that actually matters…I get to have authentic meaningful, loving, sometimes difficult conversation and relationship with people,” Bauman continues.
During those rich conversations, pastors get to know someone much better, and are invited into the life of another. Few know this privilege.
It’s always interesting
A vocation centered in relationships means there is variety in the work.
“What I enjoy most about being a pastor,” the Rev. Jeff Wells of Church of the Village in New York City shares, “is that there isn’t one thing that I have to focus on enjoying about being a pastor. In other words, the things that I get to do on a daily basis are so varied that it keeps it exciting and interesting all the time.”
The Rev. K Karpen, who has been serving the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in New York City for 32 years, agrees. There is a newness every day. “I sometimes call this place 'the church of why not,'” he says, “because when people come with an idea or something they’re really excited about… it’s like, 'Why not? Let’s try it.'” He continues, “That’s what I love about this church. That’s what I love about my job.”
That can happen with one congregation or when moving from place to place, as our United Methodist pastors often do.
“I enjoy being sent to various fields of labor every now and then under our itinerant system of appointment,” shares the Rev. George D. Wilson, Jr., Director of Connectional Ministries of the Liberia Annual Conference. “I enjoy working with people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds other than my own.”
Ministry beyond the church
Pastors often spend time with members and friends of the churches they serve, but they also serve their communities.
“Working with the people, both those that call the church home and others in the community,” is one of the joys the Rev. Doug Mackey, pastor of Tully (New York) United Community Church shares.
“The greatest joy of being a pastor is working with the people,” shares the Rev. Johnsie W. Cogman of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. “And the best is when they go out of these doors and make a difference in their community.”
The United Methodist Church serves communities in large and small ways. The Rev. Winston Ashcroft, Director of Connectional Ministries of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference reports, “I enjoy the recognition given to The United Methodist Church around the country and the respect for pastors associated with UMC contributions nationwide.” The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone operates more than 300 schools, four hospitals, and agricultural and community development programs.
The Rev. Carol Sierk, retired clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, also appreciates being recognized as a pastor. “Shopping in the local grocery store and a community member not from my church stops me and says, ‘Got a minute?’”
The conversations that follow vary, shares the Rev. Marikay Green pastor of Aura United Methodist Church in Monroeville, NJ and Repaupo United Methodist Church in Logan Township, NJ. “Being part of the lives of the community,” is important to her. “Being able to be part of the good, the bad, and the in-between.”
A front row seat to God’s work
Many pastors agree. In the good times and through difficulties, seeing God at work in the lives of others is an honor.
“Getting a front row seat to the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives,” the Rev. Tina Blake of Grace United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Maryland says is her favorite part of being a pastor.
The Rev. Jonavern Pascual Lungub, associate pastor of Knox United Methodist Church in Manila agrees. “What I love most in my work as a United Methodist pastor is the joy of seeing peoples’ lives transformed by the redeeming message of the Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ.”
“My greatest joy,” the Rev. Elyse Ambrose of Church of the Village shares, “is seeing God work through all of us.” Sometimes that happens in unexpected ways.
There are “God moments that you can’t plan and you can’t facilitate. They just show up to remind us that God is with us all and working with us all.” She continues, “That’s exciting, invigorating work which I have surprisingly very little to do with.”
“Hearing people talk about their sense of what God is asking from them,” shares the Rev. Mark Reed, who serves at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.
The Rev. Isaac Bodje, Secretary of the Cote d’Ivoire Episcopal Area, agrees. “The spirit of sharing is what I appreciate in the UMC,” he says. “We share what we have received one with another. I share with my colleagues. As pastors, we all have something unique and special, which God had bestowed upon us.”
United Methodist pastors find their work rewarding.
The Rev. Jeremy Peters of Court Street United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan, says his favorite part of being a pastor is “Preaching and hugs. We've got a pretty huggy church!”
Those hugs mean a lot, but congregations give their pastors even more.
“I’m in the business of helping people think about who they actually are as a child of God making their way in the world,” notes Bauman. “And by the way,” he adds, “it’s selfish, too, because in those conversations there’s a reflexive quality. I’m getting answers myself as life continues to go forward.”
Those called to serve as our pastors love what they do and count it a privilege.
Ndzulo Tueche, United Methodist Communications Special Projects Manager for the West Africa Central Conference of The United Methodist Church, interviewed pastors for this story and translated where necessary.