by Conor Friedersdorf

The reader writes:

My profession involves more listening than people imagine, and certainly more than people imagine from the "celebrity pastors" who get most of the media attention.  I am a pastor, serving a 100-member liberal Protestant congregation in a small city in northern California, outside the Bay Area.  Although I do prepare and deliver a sermon every week, much of my time is spent listening.

I listen to people and the story of their lives.  I am attentive to the trends in our community, such as our unemployment rate, affordable housing, and environmental concerns.  I listen to ancient voices preserved in sacred texts, not just my own Bible, but other texts, too, and contemporary voices in poetry, literature, drama.  I make it a point to listen to people whose views are different from mine, sometimes seeking them out.   Because I pray, and praying is for me more about listening than it is about talking, I listen for God in all these things.

Lately, what I've been hearing, is anxiety about the economy, anxiety that has not subsided in two years, and seems to be calcifying into a normal way of living for many people.

I want people to know that my master's degree includes significant work in counseling and spiritual care of people.  I want them to know that pastors like me, who are engaged with real people in real communities, are not trying to be famous, rich, or even influential in politics.  Pastors like me are trying to help people find meaning in life.  The "celebrity pastors" who grab the headlines are making my job more difficult every day.

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