I watched the new DVD Listening To Experience, put out by the UUA. Listening To Experience features twelve parish ministers answering six big questions about growing congregations. At one point during the DVD, the ministers begin to discuss the love they have for their congregations, emphasizing that without that love, they wouldn't be effective religious leaders for their congregations, wouldn't have the energy for the hard work and certainly not the vision and growth they've had. One of the ministers said that new clergy ought not to accept calls with congregations with whom they have not fallen in love!
Following up on the DVD, Tandi Rogers Koerger has an article in the current (pre-GA) issue of The Religious Leader called "Love Or Infatuation." Koerger asks some pointed questions to help clergy determine whether they feel mature love or merely infatuation for their congregations:
Would I be able to let this congregation go if I believed it were the best thing?
Am I willing to wait for this congregation if they are not ready to grow?
Do I respect and admire this religious community?
If I were in an argument with my lay leaders, would I still feel the same way?
According to Koerger, mature love lasts through the difficult times, even through a decline in membership. Each party accepts the imperfection of the other, finds joy in giving as well as receiving and feels a responsibility toward the other's well-being. Most importantly (to me), both parties are honest and trustworthy.
I remember listening several years ago to a minister describe his former congregants: how they lined up after worship services to tell him what he did wrong and how they relied on him to plan his own installation party. "It wasn't a good fit," was his diplomatic explanation. I saw it differently: they didn't love him the way we did.
May we all experience mature love,