Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Search for a Friend

On many occasions while talking with divinity school classmates, deans, and colleagues the question always arises: What did I not learn in seminary that I wished I had?  Normally, I answer something like this, "You know, I really enjoyed seminary.  Once I entered parish work I realized there were many things I needed to know, however, I viewed these inadequacies as on-the-job training.  So I read books I didn't finish in school, I read books on topics I needed help on, I took a unit of CPE, honed up on pastoral care, read or listened to as many Beecher lectures as i could, & etc."  And this response usually falls on ears that desired a different answer.  But lately I've come up with a new answer. 

What did I not learn in seminary that I needed to learn?  

I wished my professors would had told me or warned me how difficult making friends would be.

I wished they had said something like: making new friends once you are ordained is not impossible, but it is difficult.  And then followed with this imperative: despite the difficulty and frustration you must do it, because you will need them.  

In 1978 I attended preschool class at St. Andrew's Methodist Church.  This class provided me with nearly 95% of my friends in elementary, junior high, high school (and even college).
Back row, fourth from the left - that's me.  We all had Ms. Davis for gym class, we all drank Slush Puppies during mid-morning break, we all were scared by Mr. Miller in Biology class, we all went to Marshall Football games on Saturdays, we watched each other grow 2-3 feet, gain give or take a 100lbs, we all wore Jams shorts, feasted at Tudor's Biscuit World, watched movies at the Drive-In Theatre, saw Main Street turned into a pedestrian plaza, and suffered through the Arch Moore governor days. Some of these people in the above picture married one another, some moved to other parts of the state or nation before graduating high school, and some have gone over into glory. 

I'm not seeking to reconnect and reestablish the friendships from preschool, I use the picture as a door to a world where friendship was so much easier.  We had no choice but to be friends, we were in class together each day, played sports in the afternoon and summers together, went to church together...  

But as an adult friendship is not that easy.  A good chunk of this is my own fault, I transferred college, and seminary, I moved four times in 12 years.  Sure I am on facebook and sure I have 600+ "friends."  600+ "friends" not really.  What a scam to call them all friends, more like mild acquaintances.  Sure my close friends are on facebook and we use it strengthen our friendship.  And I have made a few new friends via facebook but to call them all friends... To make the journey of friendship as simple as confirming a request, that aint friendship.  Plus, on social media we reveal what we choose to reveal.  Me, I reveal pithy stories that I think are humorous, or righteous declarations against injustices that I perceive, or promote things going on at church.  By and large it is not a medium of cultivating and creating friendships.  

I thought about taking an ad on craigslist for a friend, but they do not have a category.  Also, what would I say on this ad?  Who would respond?  I've sold several items on craigslist, there is no way I would want to wade through all the responses (if folk responded).  

So I am curious folks, especially those of you with Rev. in front of your name, how do you make friends?  

Generally pastors make friends with other pastors.  But with religious life in America dwindling it seems everyone is in competition with one another.  It is not a zero-sum game; it's not a competition.  And we want to avoid honest speech, no one wants to say - You know I'm giving it my all and it still aint enough to get the church to a healthy place.  A few months ago I was in an Executive Committee meeting where we discussed a name change to an organization.  I proposed, "The Network of Small Struggling Churches."  My proposal was not accepted, but you get the point.  

So in this new world, how do you make friends?  

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