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.)