While searching Google Scholar for book reviews on this week’s reading, I was immediately struck by an article that referenced What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Emma Percy. In a journal called “Rural Theology” the authors stated four situations that might cause the greatest isolation for a local church pastor: 
- Bi-vocational; causing difficulty for adequate time to develop meaningful relationships
- Working alone; as opposed to having staff or pastoral teams of support and accountability
- Multiple charge contexts; thus creating a challenge concentrating on one’s own community
- Part-time; again, adequate time lacks to deepen key relationships
I am not sure of what it is like in Portland with Trish, in California with Dave and Kyle, or in Washington with Jake, but I can feel the challenges both Shawn and Jason have in their pastoral contexts being the “stand alone pastor” in their churches. I have talked to many people in my travels who think that just because a pastor has a small church, they must have loads of free time and very little pressure. HA, rubbish I say.
When I read the above list, I cringe, because mainly those four situations describe two-thirds of the churches in my denomination. Bi-vocational, part-time, working alone, and multiple charges are the norm for many of us in the Evangelical Church. One word would probably come closer to describing the isolation my Pastors feel—RURAL. I have pastors who are not only the only pastor in their church, they are the only pastor in their entire town. They might have to drive 20 or more miles to get to the nearest town, and they might be the only pastor in that town, too.
Unfortunately, not only do they feel isolated, they also feel unsupported by their congregations. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked, “What does Pastor ______ do all day? He really only works for an hour every Sunday.” HA, more rubbish!
Andrew Van Dam writes in the Washington Post, “In a way, rural areas serve as urban America’s farm team: All their most promising prospects get called up to the big leagues, leaving the low-density margins populated by an ever-shrinking pool of those who couldn’t qualify.”  This makes me quite sad that that is the impression out there, that for some reason the pastor couldn’t hack it, so he/she ended up serving in a small rural setting, like being relegated to the minor leagues.
This reminds me of all the times I heard these hurtful words about teachers, “Those who can’t, teach.” Not right! In fact, God CALLS some to serve in rural communities, and I thank God for that…
I think that is why I connected with Emma Percy so well. What current servant pastor wouldn’t? I was thankful she mentioned that for much of recorded memory people have been saying the same hurtful words about moms. What do they do all day, but eat bon-bons and watch soap operas? Talk about rubbish! My wife is and always has been a harder worker than me, whether as a stay at home mom or as a second grade school teacher. She should have gotten paid twice as much as me, for both jobs. I couldn’t have EVER handled either one as well as her.
What powerful words from Percy,
“Central to ministry is the building up of the relationships, the quality of incidental encounters, the time spent in praying for people, the care given in walking with people through difficult circumstances and the witness that all of this is connected to the love of God known through Jesus Christ. Such things are hard to quantify, and often the outcomes of such encounters are not obvious in the short term and may never be recognized this side of heaven.” 
In comparing how pastoring is to mothering, I totally appreciated Percy reminding us so well of the many demands both positions hold, while reminding us of the spiritual implications of ministry like “challenging people, encouraging others, developing gifts and strengths, adjusting to new members, working through complex realities, fostering spiritual growth, doing outreach and missions, and the list goes on.” 
It cracked me up that this book’s title was built upon an earlier book authored my Naomi Stadlen, What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing. 
My favorite chapter in this book was titled “Living up to the callings – being good enough.”  I resonated with what she described as unrealistic mass of expectations from the local parish. Boy oh boy, I am picking up what she is laying down. It is an impossible job (but thankfully, with God all things are possible–Matthew 19:26). 
Often, us pastors feel guilty about not meeting expectations. We certainly feel confused by the misidentification of success and failure, like in church size or offering amounts. Especially in RURAL settings, we sometimes wonder if we are being effective for Christ, thankfully we don’t have to answer to the rubbish some people throw down. We simply need to be faithful (to our calling) and fruitful (for the Kingdom)!
 Stuart-White, Bill, Jane Vaughan-Wilson, John Eatock, Judith A. Muskett, and Andrew Village. “Isolation among Rural Clergy: Exploring Experiences and Solutions in One Diocese.” Rural Theology16, no. 2 (2018): 65–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/14704994.2018.1519916.
 Dam, Andrew Van. “The Real (Surprisingly Comforting) Reason Rural America Is Doomed to Decline.” The Washington Post. WP Company, May 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/05/24/real-surprisingly-comforting-reason-rural-america-is-doomed-decline/.
 Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks like Nothing. London: SPCK, 2014. 20.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 143.
 Barker, Kenneth L. Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. Matthew 19:26.
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