October 9, 2017

The Strength of a Pastor

Yesterday was Clergy Appreciation Day, and many churches found ways to honor their pastors.  While this may be more a construction of Hallmark than the liturgical calendar, it is a fine practice for churches to recognize the pastoral leader in their midst.

Where I preached yesterday in Manhattan, KS, nary a word was said about the  observance, but the appreciation of the pastor was palpable.  I think it is because he is so intent on creating space for people to flourish.  In fact, he is so busy serving them that he has little time to consider whether or not the congregation is paying attention to this new entry on the calendar.

Pastor John Parsley's generosity of spirit sets the tone for the church.  There is freedom for worship leaders to lead; there is eagerness to share the pulpit with a guest preacher; and, there is desire to honor the many worthy ministries that the church members have sustained over the years.  Silver-haired and in the summative years of his ministry, this pastor's strength is seen in his empowerment of others.

During the service he announced that there was a need for assistance in emptying a storage unit and moving a congregant to a new dwelling.  He said he would meet volunteers at the unit at 2:00 PM to do the work.  As I stood at the door by the pastor to greet the departing worshippers, several said they would meet him at the appointed time and place.  With that kind of example, people are eager to serve, also.

One can sense the thick bonds of a gathered community by how they linger after the service to have further conversation with fellow members.  And they did linger!  Black and white and Asian, young and old, this expression of the Body of Christ is seeking to make an impact in Manhattan and beyond.  Part of the conversation after the service was about how their church could link up with what the American Baptist Home Mission Society is attempting in Puerto Rico.

This church has been a good friend to Central, having lent us a board chair, Don Wissman, and current chair of Governance Committee, Carol Ann Holcomb.  There are also faithful donors in the congregation, for whom I give thanks. 

I am at Kansas State for three days as Theologian in Residence.  Not only to I get to meet with students and clergy, offer a public lecture and teach a class, but I also get to visit a vibrant church like First Baptist Manhattan and witness the strength of its pastoral leader.  It is Central's mission to prepare excellent leaders for congregational leadership, as well as other ministry contexts.

Molly T. Marshall

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