From Connecticut comes this candid bit of spleen-venting from a Protestant pastor:
Eleven in the evening is well past my bedtime, which is to confess that I don’t have a particularly glamorous social life. A single man in late middle-age on a tight budget, I try to limit my trips to Monte Carlo to once-a-month or so. All of which means I am not at my best when the late Christmas Eve service rolls around. I’d just as soon be tucked away with visions of sugar plums, but we worship late that night, so I suck it up and do my best.
This year the choir was excellent, as always, though the whole community has been struggling a bit. It isn’t easy to reconcile the call to be festive with the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, much less the massacre in Newtown. I tried to strike a balance, hope and challenge in the same homily.
At the end of the evening, as the line of folks shaking my hand and wishing me a Merry Christmas wound down, one of the once-a-year crowd stepped up. Instead of wishing me a “Merry Christmas,” he informed me that it was the worst service he had ever attended.
When I attempted to explain our grief, he continued to chastise. And then he was gone. I bit my tongue and didn’t sat what I wanted to, that someone who shows up once a year and does not contribute in any way to the life of the community really doesn’t have a right to criticize how we worship. I didn’t encourage him to try another church next Christmas. I’m human, and I certainly wanted to, but took it, and turned the other cheek.
I could write about this new American attitude, this pernicious belief that we have the right to criticize anything at anytime, to just blurt out whatever toxic blather enters our poisoned minds. But I won’t. For what this bushy-bearded rogue reminded me of, more than anything, was all the things pastors never get to say to their congregations. There have been numerous versions of such a list in recent years, often secretly circulated among the clergy. I’m going to let the cat out of the bag.
So here is a list of some of the things your pastor may (or may not) wish she (or he) could say. No doubt she or he has their own list. If you listen well, you might just see “between the lines.”