There is a school of thought among clergy, and those who train them, that you should never allude to personal circumstances in sermons for various reasons: maintaining the distance appropriate to authority, not giving the ill-disposed ammunition against you, or exercising a proper reticence over things that may pertain to other people. I don’t follow this line: you, as pastor, are a human being struggling with the business of trying to live the spiritual life just like the people listening to you, and it helps for them to know that.
On Sunday I was talking broadly about occasions when we’re compelled to reassess our relationships with others and our view of ourselves, and described, very broadly, my dealings with someone formerly very close to me, and now less so, and how my conflicted emotions had made me realise that what I thought was me responding to their need actually included a neediness of my own - the need to be useful and to imagine myself as self-sacrificing and generous.
Amanda, a member of the congregation who often gets into arguments with other worshippers about the way the church works and who can seem a bit prickly wanted to talk to me about it. ‘I think there are times when our needs meet the needs of others and something good comes out of it,’ she said. ‘I think of us being a bit like jigsaw pieces, fitting together in a way we don’t always see at the time.’ Not a surprising thing to say, but you often need someone else to tell you what you know.
Amanda looked at the people milling around and drinking tea in the church hall. ‘I know I can be argumentative, it’s the way my family was,’ she went on, ‘but I look around at the church and I see people helping each other and I think, They’re not a bad bunch.’ No, I agreed, they’re not. They can help me along in ways I don't expect.