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A Day in the Life

To be a pastor is to periodically find oneself on the receiving end of sorts of bemused and confused sentiments. Many people in post-Christian Canada have few categories for something as inexplicably odd as a “pastor.” Understandably, they have questions. So what do you actually do all day? Do you like just hang out with people for a living? Do you read the Bible all day? 

My personal favourite from the “things people say to/about pastors” file came earlier today (third time in the last week or so): Must be nice to just work for twenty minutes on Sunday!

Now, ordinarily, I find comments of this sort wonderfully, delightfully original and well, just plain fun, but occasionally—on exceedingly rare occasions, perhaps when I haven’t had enough sleep or coffee or hugs—I am tempted to respond somewhat less magnanimously.  But, rather than grinding my teeth in uncharitable frustration and lobbing back a few sarcastic missives in retaliation, I decided instead to offer a brief chronicle of a day in the life of a pastor.  Not a particularly inspiring day, not particularly productive, not really worthy of emulation…

Just a day.

Like today.

For example.

——

6:00 am: Stumble out of bed and into an arctic southern Alberta morning for an early men’s breakfast… Lead short devotional… Catch up with people I haven’t seen for a few weeks… Talk about recent trip to Winnipeg…

8:10 am: At the office… Respond to three emails… Resolve to read through commentaries on texts for upcoming Sunday worship… Realize that I forgot something important at home (i.e., lunch)… Respond to three more emails… Add two items to to-do list… Make note of people to call later in the morning… Drive home

 9:11 am: Home office, a few quick phone calls… First phone call… “Would you be interested in attending a preaching conference?” “Well, I don’t know… Yes, you can send me the email… Thank you…” Another phone call… Local chaplain looking for volunteers with seniors… “Yes, we can do lunch, but I don’t think things have changed much since last time… People are busy, stretched thin… We’re not a very big church…Yes, ok. Lunch it is.” Another phone call… Conversation about upcoming sexuality workshop… Yes, it’s very difficult to know how best to move forward when people are so divided… We need more safe spaces… Yes, I will try to be there…” Respond to three more emails…

10:06 am: Begin to sift through tasks arising out of last night’s church council meeting… Start with tackling expense spreadsheet… Realize receipts are at church… Respond to three emails… Make coffee, pack lunch… Back to church.

11:02 am: Church office… scan receipts, fill out expense claims, send it off… Respond to three emails… Realize that I forgot a receipt… Scan and send again… Open up Bible and commentaries for upcoming sermon… Remember that I forgot to return a potentially difficult phone call… Sigh in frustration… Respond to three emails… Begin to eat lunch while procrastinating from potentially difficult phone call… Look out window.

12:29 pm: Finally make difficult phone call… Woman and her mother in desperate place… Evicted from apartment, out of money, no more food, only one more night at hotel… Try to calm her down, try to get a sense of the big picture, try to understand the story… No luck… Tear-soaked mania… “Oh Pastor Ryan, I can’t believe you called me back, I just need some help so very badly…”… Scan memory… remember that we’ve helped this person before… Cynicism begins to descend… Try to beat it back… Compassion, mercy, compassion, mercy… Good Samaritan and all that stuff… Half an hour of wild and desperate conversation… “Why don’t I drop by your hotel and see what we can do?”… Respond to two emails… Pray.

1:38 pm: Motel lobby… “Oh, THANK YOU for coming… Oh please, we need help, oh please… nobody else will help us… I try to have faith…” I wonder, “How many times have they said th… NO, stop… Mercy, compassion, Good Samaritan… Right”… Talk to hotel manager… “How long have they been here? Who else has paid for them? How much would a few nights cost? They need to get until Monday when they meet with the homelessness agency… Ok…” Go back to talk to woman and her mother…  More tears… “Let me make a few calls, I’ll see what I can do… I’ll be back in an hour and a half or so… no, don’t cry, it’s ok… We’ll figure something out…” Back to car… Respond to two text messages… Pray.

2:23 pm: Take frustrations out on squash ball in weekly game with a friend… Lose abysmally.

3:45 pm: Phone call with deacon… “Can we… ? What do you think? Is it a good use of…? Yeah, ok…. I know, it’s tough to know…” Back to the hotel… Woman and mother are in their room… Decide to just pay for the room and go… Need to pick up daughter for swim club… “Can I pay for a few nights? … Thanks… Receptionist says, “You’re a pastor?” “Yeah, yeah, I am…” “Which church?” “The one off 43rd… Yeah, of course you’d be welcome to come…” Back in car… Deep breath… Feel frustrated… Hate situations like this… hate feeling like a vending machine… Wish people didn’t look at me and try to figure out what to say to get what they want… Wish I wasn’t always so cynical… Respond to two texts… Pray.

4:07 pm: Home…. Fifteen minutes before swim club…. Respond to three emails… Pray… Back to the city with my daughter…

5:03 pm: Sit down in public library while daughter swims… Compose rambling, lamely self-congratulatory, defensive blog post… Sigh… Pray for forgiveness.

5:41 pm: Scratch out a few notes for sermon… Wish I had remembered my commentaries… Respond to two emails… Doze off.

6:01 pm: Wake up in uncomfortable library chair… Neck hurts… Twenty minutes passed…

About as long as a Sunday sermon.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. mike #

    hahahahahahahahahaaha……..PRICELESS! …what a great sense of humor

    November 12, 2014
  2. mmartha #

    perfect ending –

    November 13, 2014
  3. I agree the ending’s perfect. And the tone is wonderful throughout. I’ve been thinking a lot about the construction of a day also. What’s your definition of a good day, Ryan?

    November 14, 2014
    • Hmm, good question, Shirley. I’m not quite sure how to respond. I suppose a good day would be a day where I was able, in some way, to both give and receive love, to create something of value for another human being, to inject some measure of goodness, however small, into the world. Sounds impossibly vague, I know…

      I guess a good day, for me, is often like a good piece of art or music or whatever. It’s hard to describe in advance, but I know it when I see/hear/experience it. 🙂

      November 15, 2014
  4. mmartha #

    From God’s side, as Eugene Peterson, The Message, translates in Deut. 18 ( instructing the priests through Moses, or re-capping ), good days overall would be “to be present and serve always in the name of God, your God.”
    So, this looks very much like a good day ! Couldn’t resist that – was reading in The Message this week.

    November 15, 2014
    • Yes, it certainly does. Thanks.

      November 16, 2014

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