26 March 2007

Fr. Timothy

I was thinking today about Jan Karon's delightful books about Fr. Timothy at that little Episcopal Church in the NC mountains. Especially about when Fr. Timothy gave up driving and just biked around his parish for a couple years. Yeah. Right. I was thinking this today as I made a circuit from St. Paul's to Metro East Lutheran High to lead chapel, to the nursing home in Glen Carbon, to the hospital in Maryville, to the nursing home in Maryville, and then up the highway back to home for lunch. Then down route 140 to Alton to visit the hospital and then go to an assisted living home, and finally back to Hamel. It took fully 1/4 of my gas tank. Now, if I were Fr. Timothy on my bike, I *might* have just reached Maryville... :)

Seriously, our automobile society has totally rewritten "parish boundaries" in the sense of defining the area people live in. They live, shop, go to doctors and hosptials within an hour's or so drive of their homes. It makes modern parishes outrageously huge. And of course, we're then constantly overlapping. So when I go to the hospital it is not at all unusual to run into fellow LCMS pastors making the rounds. But when Fr. Timothy went to the hospital in his little town, he was the only episcopal priest in sight.

Sigh. I sometimes think Fr. Timothy might be onto something. Maybe I SHOULD go buy a bike and give it a try.


Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon

Do you ever wonder if the car and modern technology are actually hurting the church? I wonder about this all the time. How can we have a community when no one lives in one place for more then 5 years.

My question for a pastor is how do we live in a world like this? Why do so many christian churches want to embrace the monster of marketing? I read your church fathers quotes and wonder if in a thousand years men like you will be quoted. Thanks for a great web site and focus on Christ.

Greg B

William Weedon said...


Oh, that is a pet peeve of mine. We've lived here in Hamel for 15 years and I just couldn't imagine living anywhere else, truthfully. It's GREAT to walk into the post office and they know you. Or - this one still cracks me up - last week Cindi and went to Applebees for lunch in Edwardsville. We invited my son, David, to join us. He arrived a little later than we did. He thought about how to identify us: "I'm with the pastor" he said. The lady brought him right to our table - and I didn't even have my clerical on. But I usually do, and she knew that. THAT'S community in a way, too. Well, how do we address it? One suggestion: just stay put. Second: ask for social get-togethers at church and go eat at them. Third: make sure and invite members of your parish into your home (even if just for cards; especially for cards!).

About the quotes, I'm glad you read them! I do not think, though, that anyone will ever be reading a thing I have written anytime in the future. Just a parish pastor who happens to like blogging!

Thanks for the kind words.


Past Elder said...

I just gotta ask. Clerical -- or as they were called when and where I grew up, Roman -- collars!

A black shirt with a white band stuck in the collar where a tie would go was almost exclusively worn by Catholic clergy growing up. Non-Catholic clergy you could always spot, because either the shirts were something other than black, or the collars were of a different style, usually the kind visible all around the neck and not stuck into the shirt.

When I became Lutheran a little over ten years ago, it was in WELS, where at least in my experience it is rare for a pastor to wear any kind of clerical collar or shirt -- maybe saw one once, in a picture of someone somewhere else!

Although the pastors at the LCMS parish I started attending and eventually joined do not wear them, they seem much more common in LCMS than WELS, and quite often of the kind the RC priests wore growing up.

So -- has this been the long-time practice in LCMS, or is it more recent? I'm sure it is more common among the "confessional" types than the "missional". And I can't help but wonder -- when with wife, or wife and kids, do you occasionally get "looks" from people thinking this looks like a priest, but hey!

I'm not looking to open up the issue of whether Lutheran or LCMS cpecifically clergy should wear them, just interested from my background in how this works out for a solid confessional Lutheran pastor going about his day.

Liturgically, this is a different matter. In WELS, sometimes you'd see pastors in vestments, though I don't think I ever saw a chasuble, just an ald and stole, sometimes in "black Genevas", though I was told for some this was a sign of the more Pietistic leaning element. Generally it seems LCMS pastors wear the alb and stole, though I haven't been to our local LCMS Willow Creek affiliate mega church!

Jim Roemke said...

Pr. Weedon,
On vicarage last year in central Texas, I woke up one morning, drove an hour and fifteen minutes to Waco for a parishioner who was having a procedure, then from there another 40 minutes to Temple to see another parishioner in another hospital, then back an hour and a half to the church then another 45 minutes in the other direction to Stephenville to see another parishioner. I think I used at least 1/2 a tank and spent most of the day on the road. It was a pain in some ways, but thank God for the opportunity to serve His people and for the blessing of a motorized vehicle! I can't imagine riding a bike, or, more likely in Texas, a horse all that way.

Also, PastElder, on one of those long trips my wife went with me. I was wearing a collar and we stopped in town for lunch. She ordered an alcoholic drink (nothing big, one of those girly fruity drinks) and the waiter gave her the weirdest look and informed her that the drink was alcoholic. She said that she felt like a renegade nun! But there are important reasons for clergy wearing specific clothing, even if it does look Roman.

William Weedon said...

In my experience in Lutheranism, the collar was always normative for Sunday and for any pastoral acts. Sometimes Pastor showed up at meetings wearing a tie, but usually wore the collar.

At Concordia Bronxville, Dean Thomas Nelson Green ALWAYS wore his clerical - the Anglican kind - white all the way around. Well, he didn't for tennis, and we debated whether or not he slept in it.

It's been my practice to wear it. It opens hospital doors like you wouldn't believe. And what a GREAT witnessing tool. I mean, people feel free to come up to you and start discussing God and you can witness to them quite naturally. The other day at the local restaurant a woman came up and asked if I would baptize her baby. She hasn't contacted me again, but I suspect she will. If you wear a suit like a business man, folks don't know WHO you are; wear the clerical and everyone knows.

Because I wear the white around the neck most of the time, I am rarely mistaken for a Roman. Folks seem to realize that there's a difference there. I still remember one day standing in line at McDonald's and a fellow coming up to me and saying: You're not Episcopalian, so you must be Lutheran. What kind? I smiled and said: Missouri Synod. He said: Oh and walked away. Turns out he was the Episcopal priest in town!

The funny thing? NOW that parish is served by a woman "priest" who grew up - you guessed it! - LCMS. Weird. I don't know what kind of collar she wears, though. :)

William Weedon said...


That will teach you to do a vicarage in Texas! :P

Past Elder said...

No issues with me! I'm just interested in stories like yours -- how this works out in real life!

There's a lot more of our stuff looks Roman than just collars, looks Catholic when it's really just catholic, and includes to a good many Lutherans too! Having been Roman, I'd day it will stay that way unless the association is broken, and how will that happen unless we use it -- then maybe, however slowly, people will start to get the difference between what is Catholic because it's catholic and what is Catholic becuase it's Catholic. I suppose I didn't express it very well, but I gotta get a pizza out of the oven right now!

Past Elder said...

When my dad was in his last illness -- an RC in an RC hospital -- a hospital chaplain came around to see if she could be of help. Collar and all.

For one thing, as a kid pre Vatican II I used to serve Mass in that hospital's chapel and I could swear they used to take more care about sending the appropriate clergy based on patients' preference! But I got past my mental note that the world is a different place now, and went with it. I asked her what church she was with. After several variations on the theme of we're all headed in the same direction, it finally came out -- ELCA. Being WELS I had asked for the WELS chaplain, for me, not for dad, and he showed up in regular shirt and pants, which is what I expected. For that matter, I don't recall seeing an RC priest around at all!

Having gone to a university sponsored by a Benedictine abbey, for some of them wearing the collar was dressing down -- in that context, not wearing the traditional Benedictine habit. One of them, a classics professor, even wore the Anglican style collar!

One time, a portly priest sneezed so hard his collar flew out, to which he said Well that's one way to lose your priesthood! Little did we know another one was actually married but didn't tell anybody, figuring the rules would change soon -- this was in the 60s. Now he always wore a collar, but without a coat jacket!

Clergy watching is kind of fun when you've had an exposure to several different kinds! And, I got the pizza out in time!

Joel said...

Recovering the local parish concept seems like a good, incarnational kind of goal. I suspect it would help in terms of outreach to unbelievers as well. E.g., if your parish church has a festival, how much more inviting would it be to the unchurched if their neighbors, whom they would already know, were hosting the festivities.

Fr. Hank said...

Piepkorn refered to civies as 'protestant drinking clothes' 8>)

Christine said...

Very interesting observations here. Some of the things I do miss from my European roots is how the church was often the center of the village or town square and everyone could walk to church.

Sundays the only thing I remember hearing were the church bells ringing. And people walked on Sundays. Taking a stroll was always refreshing because there were so many beautiful places to see along the way. Saturdays, walking to the market stalls with their wonderful array of local produce was just great.

I'm also enjoying Past Elder's comments. My father's family is Roman Catholic as is my husband's so I've had plenty to observe. Clergy watching can indeed be very interesting!

It seems there are far fewer priests staffing hospital chaplaincies nowadays due to a growing clergy shortage. There seems to be lotsa Catholic sisters engaged in chaplaincy work. Some of them, unfortunately, are right up there with the ELCA lady pastor, i.e., we're all going to the "same place."

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that a Lutheran Pastor when he is in public or in his office at church should wear his clerical collar. To me, it is a sign of respect for the leadership position in the church. There is an old saying that familiarity degrades respect. That same thing applies to by calling Pastors by their first name.

Past Elder said...

Yes Christine there are far fewer priests in hospital work these days. Sisters commonly bring Communion to patients -- from a Lutheran perspective interesting in that these are hosts previously consecrated during a Mass, so you have both the communion in one kind issue and how long does the consecration remain issue all in one! My dad saw a good deal more of the chaplain sister from his RC run nursing home than anyone connected with the hospital per se, whereas when I was an altar boy the same hospital had two priests full time. For that matter, the Mass was at 0600 so the Franciscan sisters who were also largely nurses could get to their shifts, and I don't know if there are enough of them left either. I started out assisting the Tridentine Mass, which at the time was simply the Mass, and ended up with the Novus Ordo. One of the priests had the same last name as I do, so there was always speculation if I would be the next Father Maher.

The secretly married priest -- he was a parish, not a hospital, priest -- gave me the best lesson in rubrics I ever had. For one of the longer deals (a Holy Week one I think) he said, if you forget what to do, walk over to me like you know exactly what you are doing, bow slightly and ask in a very quiet voice "Do you want ... " and I will bow slightly and tell you Yes or No and what to do!

My LCMS parish still rings church bells just before services!

Christine said...

"My LCMS parish still rings church bells just before services!"

So does mine !! I love it!

Your references to the terms [c]atholic versus [C]atholic: this is something that has my Catholic relatives stumped. I think I'll just ask them all to do a cursory review of the Athanasian Creed!

I also agree with Anonymous that it's a good thing for Lutheran pastors to wear their collars at church and in public.

William Weedon said...

Grant, then, O God, Your will be done
That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
"I know My own; My own know Me.
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen."
LSB 645:5

There is nothing like the sound of the Church bells. St. Paul's has but one, but it's got the sweetest sound. We ring it before the Divine Services. We also ring it at Confirmation, as hands are laid on each child, and of course it tolls after the Funerals and rings after Weddings.

To anon: about the wearing of the clerical. My practice has always been to wear the clerical for anytime I am carrying out the office of the ministry - either in public or private ministrations. I do not wear it, however, when I go out in public on my "day off" or when getting together with friends, etc.

As to what the pastor is called, people call me whatever they call me. I never challenge what they call me. By far the most common thing is just: "Pastor." Many call me Pastor Bill. Some call me Reverend (a name I do not like - rings in as Methodist to my ear). Some call me Father. Some call me simply by my first name. To me its a bit of a machs nichts matter, but I do confess to preferring simply "Pastor."

Christine said...

I do confess to preferring simply "Pastor."

Beautifully put.

Thanks, also, for quoting from one of my favorite hymns.

Anonymous said...

As an Orthodox happening upon the blog, I have to disagree about calling clergy by their first name being disrespectful.

We almost always call our priests by their first names, with no disrespect intended or implied. We are all members of one body, though, the body of Christians. And their first names are their Christian names.

Last names have come to be over time for the purpose of organizing society. First names are the names given to us in Holy Baptism and Chrismation. Why would it be disrespectful to call those that God has placed over us by their Christian names?

Past Elder said...

Ok, names.

Growing up pre Vatican II RC among secular clergy (meaning parish priests under the jurisdiction of the local bishop, as opposed to regular clergy, meaning not its ordinary meaning but those living under the regula, or rule, of an order such as the Benedictines and the Rule of St Benedict for monasteries) priests were always addressed as Father then their last name. Came the revolution, er, Vatican II, and the more liberal leaning took to being addressed by Father and then their first names, which was a deliberate sign to tome down the reverence and see them more as just like us.

Now for the regular clergy, to be just another guy, you did just the opposite! Formerly, when you joined the order, you were given a name, generally that of a great saint, and your baptismal name as well as surname were not used to indicate your "stability" which is not a psychological reference but that you lived now in community and your former surname had no meaning. Came the Revolution and this practice was dropped as mandatory but left as optional, with the option extended to professed monks to go back to their baptismal names. Which of course most did, so now you've got a bunch of Father Toms and Father Eds, so last names were used to tell them apart! I think most orders, including sisters, did the same as far as I can tell.

It's a lot of work, this being relevant!

Now that I'm out of all that mess and Lutheran, I just call the pastor Pastor!

Past Elder said...

Strictly speaking, I don't have a Christian name. Terence was not a saint but a Roman playwright, a Carthaginian slave I think who was given citizenship because of his dramatic abilities. Wonder how the folks snuck that by, as the usual custom was to choose a saint's name for baptism. My name at birth, btw, was Douglas (I found this out at age 51!) and was changed by the court at adoption to Terence, which is what appears on my baptismal certificate, although that is a copy written in 1958, though the baptism was in 1950 so who knows! My older cousin was named Dianne, which comes from a Greek goddess, but she came from the Methodist side of the family so who knows there either!

RCs at least in my day took a saint's name at confirmation too, but I don't know if this is still the custom. Maybe if Schuetz is lurking out there he can tell us. (And if you are, mine was Patrick!)

My younger son has a middle name of Calvin, probably the only Lutheran kid in the world with that distinction -- but the choice was not based on church stuff, it was the English first name of the Chinese physician who helped his mother live long enough with cancer to bear him safely.