Editor’s note: This reflection is offered in conjunction with the ELCA’s Rostered Ministers Appreciation initiative. Learn more and get involved at elca.org/rmappreciation.
Our rostered ministers are called from all walks of life. They serve in all kinds of roles—pastors, deacons, chaplains, musicians and more. They wear all sorts of hats—curators of worship, property managers, accountants, volunteer coordinators, passers-of-the-peace, preschool music leaders and mediators—some of which they didn’t learn about in seminary.
While serving in my last call, I spent my days worship planning, visiting people in the hospital and at home, leading Bible studies, making phone calls, attending meetings, fixing the copy machine, scheduling volunteers, picking up doughnuts, studying God’s word, planning confirmation, leading service opportunities and answering emails.
Some days were more tedious than others. Some days seemed small. I wondered if anyone noticed the specifically chosen themes for worship or the perfectly placed hymns. I wondered if all the words I spoke—prayers, blessings and sermons—were heard. Or did all those words get in the way of God’s work? I wondered if people were tired of hearing about God, Jesus and the Spirit at work in the world. I wondered if God was even at work in me sometimes.
So often, maybe most of the time, rostered ministers are unsure whether our words and actions are being understood or if they even make a difference. We write, preach, read, show up, listen, cry and bless, sharing our hearts and faith with others. We do it because we don’t know what else we’d do. We can’t imagine a life where we’re not sharing God’s love with a hurting world. We serve God’s church because we’re called. We love those we meet because Jesus first loved us. It’s not easy. I don’t think it’s meant to be. But it is life-giving and beautiful.
She gave me the gospel truth that the work I did mattered. That it was noticed. But perhaps more importantly, she reminded me that I am loved.
Right now I’m not serving in a call. I stepped away from my previous role as pastor. The last few months before I left were challenging as I balanced being part of a clergy couple with a newborn. The time was right to take leave to be home with my daughter and write.
A few weeks after my last Sunday at church, I received a handwritten letter in the mail from Matilyn, a child I taught in Sunday school and confirmation. In her letter, she recounted our time together—Sunday school lessons, confirmation, church dinners and how her faith grew as a result. Matilyn’s letter spoke words of hope to me. She gave me the gospel truth that the work I did mattered, that it was noticed. But perhaps more importantly, she reminded me that I am loved.
Words of affirmation remind us there is power in sharing our gratitude. Like Matilyn, I send handwritten notes to the pastors who have influenced me—the men and women who shaped and formed me to serve the church. I tell them that what they do matters. That they made a difference in my life. That the church is a better place because of them. I tell them that they are deeply loved.
The work rostered ministers do through this church matters. In bread and wine, water and word. In the hours studying God’s word and the hours sharing stories over coffee. In choir practices and church musicals. In serving across the world in the military and across the street at the food pantry. It matters not because of what we do but for who we are: beloved children of God.
So write a note. Share your thanks. Remind a leader in the church that they are loved beyond measure.