A Message from the Conference Lay Leader
By Delores Martin
In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, the church is facing challenges and opportunities, and both the clergy and laity can respond in unique ways. In times like this, we realize what partnerships and collaboration can create.
Laity, I hope you are stepping up to care for others in your church and praying for your pastor. Now is a time for you to be working in partnership with the clergy.
Pastors, I hope you are taking time for self-care. Being in ministry is rewarding, but tough. Now is a time for you to work in partnership with the laity.
In this pandemic, our lives have changed, our schedules are different, and “church as usual” has been disrupted. Some people may be reluctant to return to church the way it’s always been. Many of us have been thrown into new ways of adapting. But in The United Methodist Church, leadership is shared between lay and clergy. This partnership, between lay and clergy, will give us strength and potential as we move into the future.
I encourage the laity of the Baltimore-Washington Conference to check in with their pastors, to be willing to work with others, and try new things. Together, we can take risks that are based on our common vision and mission, that extends our faith, and enables us to grow in our discipleship.
Everyone today has a new normal. For many of us, this new way of being requires increased use of technology. We are being more creative. Everyone is called to use their creativity. However, we need to keep in mind that creativity can be messy. Not everything we try will work. Laity and pastors may, however, find new practices for future ministries emerging from these experiments. This is a time that forces us to reconsider our definition of “we” and our connections. Clergy and laity should explore together how that would look as a body of Christ.
To all Laity, if we are to blossom, we need to take an active role and partner with our pastors. Warming the pews is fine, but what would it look like if we took an active role in helping to “feed the sheep,” rather than waiting to be fed? I invite you to volunteer to lead Bible study, deliver a sermon, call the sick and shut-ins, and use the gifts God has given you to work in the church.
Let’s practice servant leadership with each other and be an example to others.
The status and role of the laity is very important for the growth and maintenance of the church. As the pastors live into the mission of empowering leaders to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we as CLMs, Lay Leaders, and “pew warmers,” must be ready and willing to assist.
Often, the laity can serve God by detecting gifts and graces in others. They can often anticipate situations before they become problems. This is a good pastor-laity project!
Is the distinction between clergy and laity biblical? Neither the word “clergy” nor the word “laity” appears in the Bible. These are terms that are commonly used now to refer to the “person in the pulpit,” the pastor, versus the “people in the pews,” the laity. While we all have different callings and gifts, we are all called to be servants of the Lord.
Tradition might lead some to believe that the pastor must present all the ideas and suggest and lead all activities. Pastors, this will lead to burnout. Call on your lay people.
Why do you think some pastors don’t call on the laity more? Is it fear of losing control? Does it appear that they will be perceived as not performing pastoral duties? Do they feel a need, after giving us things to do, to proceed to tell us what to say and how to do it? Please, let these fears pass. Fellow laity, stand up and say, “Here I am, ready and willing to assist!”
To the Laity: Be respectful of the pastors with all they must do to keep us focused. Tactfully remind them that you are there to assist. This is especially important in our churches that don’t have a staff. Pastors: let go and trust that the laity can do the job. By sharing duties in these stressful times, you may be pleasantly surprised.
To make this partnership effective, we must take risks. Rock the boat. Challenge the rough waters. Get out of the boat together. None of us are perfect. Let’s be willing to fail. Failure can often teach us valuable lessons. Let us also always remember, as we move rhythmically together as pastors and laity, our main purpose is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Let us all be on the lookout for where God’s spirit is leading us and be ready to lead. Blessings and peace to all.