Scores of churches in Crawfordsville are served by pastors. Some serve part-time; some full-time; some congregations have more than one pastor. Rarely is their good work recognized. Pastors serving in Montgomery County are dedicated, sincere, competent, and hard working. Previous columns were in praise of teachers and farmers. It seems appropriate to write in praise of pastors.
Our praise of pastors is primarily because of their high calling. Their calling from God and the expectation of congregations is that they will teach the Christian faith — what people can believe as true — and teach good order — what is good to do. They live in accordance with both as best they can.
The high calling identifies pastors as first responders with the privilege of accompanying their congregation from the birthing room all the way to the death bed. Along the way, pastors preside at significant transitions with life-cycle rituals. They are counselors, learning confidential intimate details about individuals. They hear confessions, either formally in the confessional or in offices or homes. The role is one of an intimate stranger. They are very close, but often lonely because they cannot cultivate intimate friendships lest they be accused of favoritism or unprofessionalism.
Difficulties pastors experience are greater than at any time in our lifetimes. Most institutions suffered under Covid and must plan for an uncertain future. Many churches did not meet during Covid, and some held online services. Now, many services are both in person and online. Fewer people attend in person, and pastors can’t identify the ethereal online congregation. Our congregations differ in size, ethnicity, history, denominations, and identity, but changing demography in Montgomery County, sharpens social and political divisions, increases isolation, and deepens generational chasms. Those affect congregations along with our other institutions. Pastors struggle with tensions in congregations and denominations, while everyone faces uncertainties about our future.
The current ethos of suspicion, mistrust and criticism weakens most institutions and leaders. None more so than pastors. Because of their high calling, accusations about pastors’ missteps are aired worldwide. Prejudice and profits lead media to spread rumors that tar all with the same brush. Suspicion and mistrust eat like termites at foundations of both secular and religious faith and order. Our good pastors and civic leaders need all the encouragement and support we can give them.
Congregations in Montgomery County are both two centuries old and newly established. Pastors serve decade after decade to inspire Christians to serve the needs of our neighbors. They have provided preschools for children along with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care — blessing many prior to safety nets and continuing to fill gaps. I don’t agree with some pastors regarding aspects of their teaching about faith and order, and I probably would not attend their services. Nevertheless, those pastors and their people are the ones who visit and provide food, clothing and guidance for homeless living under overpasses near Crawfordsville.
Pastors are community leaders and are potential colleagues for leaders in government, education, business, and medicine in promoting adaptive changes to meet current and future challenges and opportunities. At the dedication of the Francis Wooden Park renovation, our mayor thanked the pastor and people of Bethel AME Church for assisting in appropriate ways in planning. Other pastors stand ready for greater cooperation to create a more vital community and more abundant life for all our neighbors. Please help them.
See: ‘In Praise of farmers,’ published in the Journal Review on July 13, 2023
and ‘In Praise of teachers,’ published in the Journal Review on Aug. 2, 2023
Raymond B. Williams, Crawfordsville, LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus, contributed this guest column.