This post is part of a blog series on Pomomusings, discussing pastoral identity. To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
Pastoral Identity: Choose Life
My clearest image for who I am as a pastor is midwife. A midwife brings a specific set of skills and training. She’s in the business of bringing new life into being. And here’s the kicker: a midwife cannot do the work of giving birth for another.
It would, of course, so much easier and so much more efficient if I as a pastor could step in and take over and do the labor needed to bring forth new life, new awareness, renewed faith. But that is not the way it works. Midwives, and pastors, have a role to play in bringing forth new life, but they are not the source of new life.
Midwives stay with the individuals or families for the entire birth process, yet they are so much more than a well-intentioned presence or companion. Their training, intuition and experience prepare them to guide, instruct, and make certain crucial decisions. Methodist pastors, when ordained, are instructed to “take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments…” That phrase, “take authority” asks something of us.
Lately, that has, for me, meant: inhabit your role, and do not hesitate to speak or do what needs to be said or done. The job of the pastor/midwife is not to please people, but to bring to birth new life.
Part of the identity as a pastor/midwife is to give specific and clear instructions, and notice when the person giving birth needs something different. Most importantly, for the health of all, an effective midwife/pastor, knows when there is a crises and calls in other health professionals.
Birth, like faith, are essential to life. What we do is not an optional feature on the journey of life, but the very essence of life.
Through it all, deep breathing helps.
Kim Risedorph is lead pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, Livermore CA. (Adam Walker Cleaveland served at Asbury for four years….and he is still missed!) Before ordination, she was a college history professor specializing in modern Chinese history. Now she specializes in parenting and pastoring, cherishing both.