Personal Notes from Mike
  • I'm changing pulpits today with Jie.  It is United Methodist Women's Sunday in Mattoon and they have asked her to speak about her Chinese ministry at the U of I.  I'll be in Pesotum.
  • Heading to Chicago after I'm done preaching to pick up Scarlette, Sean, and Tristan at O'Hare. They are returning from their quick trip to visit relatives in China.
  • On Wednesday this week I'll be in Bloomington for the first of three surgeries on my hands this fall.  (The other two will be in November.)  The problems are due to arthritis...and the surgeries will be to fuse some finger joints and to remove a basil thumb joint.  It is my plan to be ready to play first base next spring for the church softball team.

September 17, 2017
My Dangerous Job!
As the chief administrative officer of a church, I just finished making my salary recommendations for the rest of the church staff.  But then the local newspaper just published an article, "The 22 Most  Dangerous Jobs ."  I checked out the list in case any of my church staff are doing one of those jobs.  If so, we ought to give them a raise.  It turns out that none of the paid staff at our church made the list...technically. 
It does turn out that athletes have the 19 th most deadly job in America.  And since both Jordan and I played for the church softball team, and we were both injured several times, I think the church might want to add to our compensation.  But if the church does give him and me a little extra, they probably should also add to Aimee's pay (janitorial workers are the 15 th most dangerous profession in the country) and Jim's pay (maintenance and repair workers come in 14 th place.) 
Firefighters have the 22 nd most dangerous job in the country, but we are not about to start paying the children who put out the candles on Sunday morning for their daring.  Likewise, volunteers around the church who take out the trash after a potluck (trash collectors have the 6 th most dangerous jobs,) paint the youth room (painters have the 18 th most dangerous occupation,) or drive the church van (taxi drivers have the 12 th most dangerous job) will have to wait for another pastoral administration to get bonuses for putting themselves at peril.
I was a little deflated to discover that being a pastor is not
specifically one of the 22 most dangerous jobs in America.  So, I went online to find out if there would be some other excuse for me to elicit your sympathy.  It turns out that we pastors do have the highest rates of  depression among workers in America, according to both a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey AND a Duke University survey.  Among American workers, it turns out that 5% have had a significant depressive episode in the last year. We pastors, however, have more than double the rate of other employed persons.  Clergy are at 11%.  But we pastors are not entitled to all of America's condolences:  turns out we have to share it with hairdressers, funeral directors, childcare workers, nursing home assistants, restaurant waiters, and fitness instructors.  The common thread in all these occupations is that we all spend lots and lots of time witnessing other people's problems.  Much as being a pastor puts me a front row seat to bear the travails and failures of people, I guess being a fitness instructor can be just as bad...or worse in some cases.
Realizing that I had to share your empathy with hairdressers and funeral directors, etc., I went back to the internet to see if perhaps being a pastor had more  stress than our fellows in the "personal services" industry.  (I'm sometimes feel very competitive when I start researching things on the internet.)  And while we do (on the whole) have more stress than our fellow depression-mates, it turns out that we pastors are way behind soldiers when it comes to anxiety in the work environment.  Even if I have the congregation sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" every week, I doubt I can convince people to put me in the same category as the next group shipping out to Afghanistan. There is also no way my job can be confused with that of a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot.  

But I was  delighted to see that number five on the stress list is:  event coordinator!   That's a pastor!  And job number six on the stress list is "newspaper reporter," (I have to help with the church newsletter every week!)  And job number seven (I'm on a roll!) is corporate executive (our congregation is kind of a teensy-weensy corporation!) High stress job number eight is public relations executive (I'm always trying to get myself out of public relations trouble!) and high stress job number 10 is broadcaster.  (My sermons  are broadcast on the internet!) 
Well...I feel better about myself, now that I have some sense of how dangerous, depressing, and stressful my job can be.  

If I can just avoid reading the Apostle Paul, I'll be fine.  Do you realize how much stress we pastors feel trying to compete with him?  It's so nerve-wracking to try and impress people when you know, at any moment, they could throw his quote from II Corinthians in your face!  " Five times I have been lashed, three times beaten with rods...once received a stoning...three times I was shipwrecked...a night and a day I was adrift at sea...on frequent journeys encountered rivers, toil and hardship through many sleepless nights, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked..." maybe I won't ask the church to pay me extra for playing on the softball team.  I must belatedly admit that the church offers plenty of perks to compensate for that...and all the other stress and depression. 
But think this:  next time you receive the services of a hairdresser or a waiter...see if you can't come up with a little extra tip.  And the next time you cross paths with a nurse, a teacher, a funeral director, a child-care worker, or a nursing home assistant...maybe a smile, a thank you...or even a little gift.  And the next time the nation has an issue over providing better financial support for veterans (not just a 'thank-you' at a sporting event) consider suspending those hard-core political opinions to be more generous. There's no danger, depression, or stress in that!   --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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