has been how to handle the changes that occurred as I began to see myself as a minister, as I moved from being a layperson, a layleader, to being a minister, a person with a different kind of relationship with the congregation, a different kind of authority.
I recently had a communique from a longtime friend in my home church who feels I dropped her and other friends there when I moved many miles away to take my first pastorate. It has been several years since I moved; it's both a shock to me and yet not a shock. I'd had no inkling from her or from other friends there that they felt this way, but I also know that I have changed a lot since I became a minister and I know that those changes are part of this rupture in our friendship.
Our friendship began when I was a layleader in the congregation, many years ago. When I started seminary, I became less active in lay roles and was often absent because of preaching gigs elsewhere, as well as a year-long parish internship and chaplaincy internship.
The "formation" process for a minister means learning to think of oneself differently; consequently, one's actions change as one's formation progresses. I spent less time with lay friends and more with clergy/student friends as my identity shifted.
When I moved away, I intended to stay in touch with old friends but found the demands of ministry more than I had expected and let things many miles away slide from my consciousness. Unfortunately, that took a toll on those friendships.
I'm hoping my friend will understand but I have little confidence that she will. It is one of the realities of ministry, that one enters a new life at the time of leaving the lay world for the world of ministry. The growth that occurs tends to separate people. Marriages often break up in seminary because of that growth; longtime friendships can't always stand the strain of the changes.
I've sent a response to her. I hope she hears what I'm saying and accepts my apology. I hope we can retain our friendship. But the changes in me are not going away, the demands on me as a minister are not going to disappear, and the way I think of myself is now set pretty firmly in the ministry role. It hurts to think of having hurt others because of this change in my life. It will always be a sadness for me.