Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Morning Letters

Today the letter came.  Pastors get "Monday Morning Letters".  Invariably they are eruptions of frustration and festering discontent that range like downwind birdshot - indiscriminately peppering the relational landscape of the community.  They happen on Mondays because we have such outrageous and unhealthy expectations of Sundays - and the least little nudge can tip the balance and cause the emotional detritus to cascade forth.

People who write Monday Morning Letters always send them late Sunday night.  They let them loose after a day of stewing and festering, and because they can't sleep with the monster they have wrestled with - they exorcise it onto the page and release it.  I imagine they sleep well.  Their recipients won't for many days afterwards.

Monday Morning Letters are always beside the point.  Like pointing out Hitler was a vegetarian, or that Jesus was a carpenter's son.  What they aim at is hardly ever the real story.  But they do illuminate that something needs to be addressed.  What follows is often a singularly twisted hunt for relevance and truth.  And the conclusions that Monday Morning Letters precipitate are never as useful in the long run as they seem in the moment.

Monday Morning Letters are seen as a natural right of expression for the people who author them.  Never mind that, for Christians particularly, talking is always preferable.  Instructions, recipes, shopping lists, driving directions, general information almost always makes sense enough written down.  Emotional eruptions regarding unmet expectations and perceived inequities never make sense in prose.

For pastors these Monday Morning Letters are the "black marks" of ministry.  They get dealt with in the short term, but leave a lasting stain that hinders slightly.  Like that scratch on the fender of your car - too small to bother to buff it out, but eventually part of the reason why the car is no longer suitable to the owner's needs.

Monday Morning Letters carry phrases like "for a long time", "no idea", "what we are paying for", "doesn't understand", "can't know", "always been", "never been", "others agree", "should", "shouldn't", "huge", "big", "awful" - and it goes on.  The implications are always that something has been amiss for some time and the leadership has been collectively (often wilfully) unaware.  Something must be done.

Monday Morning Letters never offer solutions - yet they indicate that drastic measures are invariably needed.  Pressure is applied.  Something has to give.  Satisfaction is the ultimate goal! Never understanding. And reconciliation is as unlikely as it is unmentionable.

I have had a couple of small Monday Morning Letters in the 26 months I have been at this place.  Let me remember - one regarding preaching about stillness, solitude and contemplation of God and His word (I was too "New Age").  One about calling God "The Big Guy" - a term of endearment for me, not for some though.  A complaint about not protecting the "study hour" because we allowed an ad hoc choir to practice for Easter. And now today's Big Monday Morning Letter - two and a half pages, of which I was the subject of only the first two paragraphs. Twenty-five and a half months into my service here.

Monday Morning Letters start chains of events that their authors have no conception about.  They always start countdown clocks in ministry.  Countdown clocks to the end of the service of the person they are about. April 14, 2013 - and the clock is running on my service here.  How long it ticks until the alarm goes off will be determined by how many more Monday Morning Letters mark me.

No Shalam
No Shalom

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