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Distant Living (3)

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

How does one reside in a ministry setting for nine weeks, to participate and to observe? Michelle and I find ourselves asking that very question again and then again as we weave among the fine people at Scots International from Sunday to Sunday.

We’ve been treated like family here at the church with folks taking time from their busy schedules to help us to adapt to Rotterdam living. We’re grateful!

Our Sabbatical here in the Netherlands challenges us to renew our minds as Paul wrote to the Romans close to 2,000 years ago. It’s difficult to see what is new when the mind is stubbornly fixated on the common (Calgarian) path. I’m a stubborn guy . . .

There was one notion at the church council meeting last week that had me quickly making up my mind, but then later had me reflecting, re-considering on a walk after their closing prayer. It stirred the pot for me . . . in a healthy way, I think.

The church has been blessed with a beautiful facility, (re-built in 1947) both with worship space and with residential areas. A representative of consistory had reported that the manse was now being renovated for the new pastor and the church hoped a candidate would consider living there. There was even some discussion about how to furnish the apartment, etc.

I was rather quick to make up my mind . . . actually, having made up my mind years ago with regards to manses/parsonages.

Perhaps a little out-of -turn, I mentioned at the meeting that back in Canada, some 95% of ministers have decided to purchase their own homes rather than reside in a residence provided by the church. This is done primarily for inflationary reasons (the investment being a valuable resource for retirement), but it also allows the pastor and his family to make their own decisions regarding housing. Perhaps more subtly, it permits them to feel a sense of independence.

Apparently, it’s exactly the opposite scenario for the Scot’s church, with pastors receiving healthy accommodation consideration in retirement, as well as a pension.

If I’m honest, I dismissed the latter idea as being rather antiquated . . . and then the meeting moved on. Naturally our Canadian way of thinking did not need “˜renewing’.

But . . .

The truth is ‘housing considerations’ have taken up much of my time and thinking back in my native land. Decisions on mortgages, investments, money, bills, furniture, appliances, renovations, upkeep . . . all take an enormous amount of time every month. As a pastor where could that energy be better spent? I can certainly think of a few places, as the work within the community is endless.

If the manse was set up and ready to go . . . if the pastor never had to consider all the decisions around housing, real estate purchase . . . wouldn’t that free him or her up for a better common, public good?

And yet, does the pastor want to live in this form of isolation, that is, live so differently than everyone else? The Roman Catholic priest’s life is set up that way . . . his life is completely committed to one thing: it is a marriage to the church and church alone. The apostle Paul wrote about the blessings of being ‘single-minded’.

As a Protestant pastor am I double-minded, wanting both leadership in the church but also freedom in family life and all that that entails, including the purchase of a house and the activity around that purchase?

Ahhhh . . . this renewing of the mind thing is more difficult than I thought!

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