Authenticity & Pastoral Identity

Over the past nine months one of the keywords in my CPE Residency has been "authenticity."  We have sought what it means to be "real" and "authentic" in the practice of chaplaincy.  I got appropriately grilled when my peers and supervisors sensed a high dose of phoniness in a patient encounter that I presented in a clinical verbatim report.

Surely we’ve all met pastors who have tried to hard to play the role of clergyperson.  Surely we’ve all heard religious platitudes that did little to comfort a sin sick soul.  Surely we’ve all run into clergy who are so busy wearing funny shirts and dolling out rites and rituals that they forget the humanity of their parishioners and even themselves.  But perhaps you have also met the pastor who is so "down to earth" that there is nothing "set apart" about her.  Do I want my pastor to be like me, or somewhat different?  To be human or to be just a rung lower than the angels?

What do you make of authenticity and pastoral identity?  Can you "be yourself" and be a pastor?  How is being "pastor" different than being "you"?  (BTW, Barbara Brown Taylor touches on this issue in a major way in her book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, particularly chapter 12. I owe you all a review of the book.  Want the short version?  The book is worth reading.)

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

One thought on “Authenticity & Pastoral Identity

  1. You said, “What do you make of authenticity and pastoral identity? Can you “be yourself” and be a pastor? How is being “pastor” different than being “you”?
    That is a tough one. On some levels people want their pastor to be themselves but there are parts of our “selves” that people do not want to see. I try to be as authentic as possible with my congregation but I keep my “filter” close by.
    But on the other of the coin, we are who God created us to be. If we try to be anything else it is like we are cheating people out of God’s masterpiece — your true and honest self.
    Thanks for your post. You bring up a very interesting topic and it is one that you need to constantly wrestle with. Take care and God bless your ministry.

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