This reflection was first shared in the July 7, 2020 eNews email. To register for eNews, please click here.
“I enjoy helping people and consider It a privilege. When you think that way, your customer isn’t a transaction. It’s another person – someone to build a relationship with, even it it’s a brief one, and if it’s…(WAIT FOR IT)… a lock. Because in any business, in any industry, relationships are what it really comes down to.” That quote is from a locksmith entrepreneur who was interviewed in an article, The Key to Earning Trust (March 2020, Entrepreneur Magazine).
The article was written by the editor Jason Feifer.
I picked up a copy of the magazine because I was drawn to Tracee Ellis Ross who was on the cover and the bold letters with the lead article…HOW TO BE A LEADER: Voice. Vision. Authenticity. That’s what Wins, says Tracee Ellis Ross. I’m always surprised when I read something in secular sources that could teach us something in faith communities. Part of me wondered if the team at Entrepreneur had been reading Fr. Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ. But then I had to remember my life before I discerned a call to ordained ministry.
I was working as a Customer Service Representative for my brother-in-law Sam. At the time he was a distributor for Safeguard Business Systems. I was the person who visited our customers to see how they were doing. During our conversations I would listen to hear if there were needs the customer had that matched a product we had. If so, I would show it to them and many times it was the solution they were looking for. We were successful because we listened, we cared, and we built trust. Sam taught me how you can be ethical and profitable in business. The values I learned on that job have been with me ever since.
I remember taking a Church Administration class and when the instructor saw that I wasn’t taking notes, he asked why. I was able to say that everything he was sharing was already taught to me by my brother-in-law and with the exception of changing some of the language, the values and ethics were the same principles I had been using before entering seminary.
Over the past 33 years I have come to see the similarities and moments of caution between “working” in the secular world and “serving” in the church world. Lately, I have almost experienced the church functioning like the secular world than communities of faith.
It was only a couple of weeks after I arrived when we went into the Era of Covid-19. I don’t use the word season anymore because this is becoming a longer experience than I think any of us imagined. During this era many questions have been asked, zoom meetings held, emails sent, phone calls made and the work and service of the church has continued. What has surprised me is that in July, some of the same anxiety, stress and exhaustion has continued if not gotten worse. There is much to be anxious and stressful about. Exhaustion abounds for sure. However, so much of what I hear is on the DOING and not much about BEING. If there was ever a time when I thought faith communities would have accepted a level of doing and then stopped…so we could be more present in the BEING I thought it would be now. But it isn’t.
I wonder…Is this why Jesus detached and went physically to a different location? I wonder…Is this why he went to another side? I wonder…Is this why he had to be alone? Did he want to remember that it is in our BEING that we stay in touch with that spiritual center? Did he want to get back in touch with his inner conversation with God because he reached a limit when it came to the outward preaching and teaching? Did he take the disciples with him sometimes so followers could learn and develop their own practice and be prepared for when he would not be around on a regular basis to remind them how to be faithful followers? In our DOING are we being attentive to relationships? Is there space for BEING in the midst of all the doing?
I’m not interested in all the tasks getting checked off a list if during that process there is no language about how that doing is a spiritual practice that creates what is best for worshipping and serving God. I am not interested in perfection and slick performance if the judgements, critiques end up not being about how the experience has brought you closer and deeper in your relationship with God and others. I am not interested anything other than the people of God BEING the people of God and rejecting transactions for relationships.
The world is chaotic. It has always been chaotic. The world has always been a mixed bag with tyrants and oppressors. The world has always had injustice steal the beauty of all that God has created. IF we are not centered in our BEing then we will not be able to really be disciples of the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ in our DOing.
Customers are not transactions. Sextons are not transactions. Parishioners are not transactions. Pastors, religious educators, musicians, digital experts, technology people are not transactions. Church Secretaries/administrators and lay leaders are not transactions. Worship, education/faith formation opportunities, funerals, weddings, meetings are not transactions. Prayer, physical nourishment though eating, sleep, rest are not transactions. BEing the church is not a transaction. When you get tempted to engage with others as if they are transactions…STOP…and think about what this teaches our children, our youth and what that communicates to others.
I do not believe that God created us as a transaction. I do not believe the life, death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a transaction. I do not believe the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit is transactional.
YOU are NOT a transaction. You are a human being made in the image of God. You are loved, blessed and you are being held by the love of God in all that is happening in our world. Just as our GOD is in this with us…may we pause, remember and LIVE as followers of Jesus. Jesus…the one who showed us how faithful DOing and BEing brings trust, hope and love from imperfect beings into a world that has already been anxious, stressed and broken AND has the potential to turn all of that upside down into the Beloved Kindom of God.
May it be so. Blessings and Peace be with you all,
Rev. Dr. Susan A. Minasian
Interim Associate Conference Minister