I remember reading about the criticism of a clergyman’s words at a funeral for a person he obviously didn’t know. The remarks were general and rang pretty hollow.
I’ve been there. It can be hard to do services for people who didn’t come to my church, didn’t know me or didn’t want to know me, but their families wanted the minister to come in, say heartfelt things over their salty Uncle Jed and sort of ceremonialize the guy into heaven. Afterwards, they hand me fifty and don’t want to see me again until the next funeral.
It’s the same with weddings. I usually insist that couples come to me for premarital counseling and they’ll come and sit restlessly, nodding at the right places. I tell the young ones that issues of spirituality get more important as they get older. I tell them that their values are what defines them. And they nod vacantly.
The day comes when they say, “I do.” They hand me fifty, run to a waiting car and an overpriced honeymoon, and I don’t see them again until they die or perhaps get divorced and find themselves needing someone… anyone… to talk to. Even a clergy guy will do then.
I wonder why so many bother. People say the clergy are hypocritical and hollow, I say people treat me like part of the decorations at their occasion. If they gripe because I wasn’t meaningful enough, I wonder what they expect out of window dressing?
Why do I do it? I’ve thought about refusing more often but there are two reasons I don’t.
First, it’s my one moment that I can minister to them, perhaps reach them and give them meaningful words they can use later.
Second, I need the fifty.