Over the last few months, Father Anonymous has been -- like so many other Americans -- unemployed, in a fashion that is by turns frightening, humiliating and then frightening again. He still is; this is not a "hey, good news" post. Quite the contrary.
Mind you, the chubby little cleric has interviewed. He has read hundreds of pages of parish profiles, and met, both in person and via Skype, with quite a number of call committees. Some of the meetings went well, a number very well -- he's met some wonderful people, all over the country. Call committees are typically made up of faithful, hard-working and forward-looking church members. This makes them a particular pleasure for pastors, who often share the same characteristics. Those meetings can be a lot of fun.
Today, he started wondering about the very first congregation he spoke to during this Amblerian journey into fear. What have they been up to?
It was a long-shot parish, a unique bunch of people in an unfamiliar area. But the video call was very promising, and they invited him out to visit. By the time he was able to make arrangements, they had invited somebody else, and the moment had passed. This was odd, and a little painful, but such things happen when a congregation is eager to move forward.
So, wondering whom they had moved forward with, he looked them up on the internet. It has been almost six months now, and he expected to see a nice big "Our New Pastor" tab on the parish website, along with a smiling picture and a biographical sketch. Shockingly, it wasn't there.
Instead, he found a picture of the interim pastor, along with a very sad (and very recent) note discussing the closure of the parish preschool, and the shocking allegations being made against the teachers by ... well, you get the idea. The details don't matter here. It's a scandal, and people are in pain.
How do you react to such news? Of course, there's an element of selfish relief -- "Glad I wasn't on the bridge when they hit that iceberg." But beyond that, and far more deeply felt, is the element of sadness, compassion and -- let's face it -- self-importance: "If I were there now, maybe I could help." Maybe not; they have a capable and experienced interim pastor. But still, you can't help wondering. Even if you only know a few of the people, and very slightly, it is easy to imagine their pain, and you miss having the opportunity to soften it, or at least suffer along with them.
Oh, well. With any luck, we'll find somebody else to suffer with, and soon.