I remember when I first bought this book, our Vicar was a few months into his new role in our Church, and he shared a link to it on Facebook. I bought it thinking that it sounded interesting, but it just never popped to the top of my reading list. Probably not helped by the uninspiring cover, I never got around to it.
But I’m now quite sad that I didn’t – I know now that there’s a reason why our Vicar probably shared this book – a few months into a new Church which has been without a vicar for over 6 months, I can only imagine the mountains of work and the high expectations that had been placed on him.
I think this book should be essential reading for anyone attending a Church. We tend to put out Vicars on a pedestal and expect something incredible from them, but they are just people, and they only have the same 24 hours in the day that we do. They can’t be everything to everyone (no matter how much they want to be), but we need to be realistic and try to be a support to them rather than a burden.
As the book says:
The demands on pastors can be staggering. Pastors are asked to be dynamic preachers, compassionate counselors, capable administrators, bold visionaries, confident strategists, effective fund-raisers, strong leaders, and much more.
The book is filled with stories of vicars who have been completely let down by their congregations – acting as a pillar for hundreds of people who need their help, but then dropped like a hot coal as soon as they come to a testing period in their lives. Right at the point that they most need help, they are abandoned. As if because they are a vicar, they’re not allowed to struggle.
I’d like to think that I could never be like that, but this has definitely opened my eyes to the need to be more aware. More considerate. And just kinder in general.
As you may be able to tell from the title, the book is American, and it may be easy to dismiss the contents as things that only happen in American mega-churches, but I think it’s just as likely (if not more likely) to be a problem over here in the CofE. When you think of a CofE vicar, there’s probably a certain picture in your head, and it may look something like this:
But vicars come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are human. All of them need support and care just like we do.
While the joy of friendship allows us to experience the summits of life with one another, true friendship also means walking with one another through the deep valleys of sin, disappointment, anguish, and unbelief.
As I said before, I think this should be required reading for all church-goers. I think if more people had read it, we’d have a lot healthier looking churches, fulled with vicars who are appreciated for who they are and what they do, rather than being overwhelmed and over-worked.