You’ve seen them, maybe you’re one of them: pastors who must be in touch at all times. The cell phone is either in use or strapped handily onto the belt, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice. It’s best as a Blackberry or Treo, so it can vibrate every ten minutes with news of new messages. And just in case those fail, a beeper should be handy. You can never be too wired.
I can understand why some professions would cause one to need to be accessible 100 percent of the time: firefighters, psychologists with mentally ill patients and (given recent floods in this part of the country) plumbers come to mind. But why pastors? Certainly on large church staffs it’s a venerable practice to have one of the pastors on-call at all times in case of emergency. But I worry when I see wired pastors, ubiquitous as they are at church conventions and gatherings of clergy. I fear they conflate importance with accessibility, as if being incommunicado even briefly will lead to spiritual crisis. Must we be like other professions—doctors or financiers—and have a loop around our ear at all times? Or does pastoral wiring suggest anew the loss of confidence of the clergy vocation?
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I know clergy who never seemed to have learned that you don't have to answer your cell phone just because it rings. But I'll admit to having a cell phone on me almost all the time. In fact, I almost feel naked if I don't have it with me. And I hate going for more than half a day without Internet access. I'm not sure that's such a good thing. (Thus far, I've resisted the temptation to acquire an iPhone or a BlackBerry. Then again, here I am blogging before breakfast!)
Byasee's perspective really does make me wonder if it wouldn't be better for clergy - and perhaps for most people generally - to unplug for part of the day, to be inaccessible for a time. It can be true that genuine ministry comes in the interruptions, and being accessible leaves us open to constant interruption and thus multiple opportunities for ministry. But surely it's also true that the energy and vision we need for ministry comes from times of quiet and reflection, times when we aren't easily interrupted, times when we are accessible to God alone.
Perhaps the drive to be constantly accessible is more about our need to be needed, and even our fear of encountering God in silence, than it is about living more deeply into our vocation as clergy.