When I was first called to the church I served for thirteen years, I read an article in Leadership which suggested that you didn’t have to be like your people, but you had to like them. As a recent transplant from the West Coast to a small community in New England, I appreciated those words. I was different from the people I served in lots of ways, right down to the accent. But I did like them. I liked everyone on the search committee when I met them, and still liked them when I left.
“Liking” isn’t enough to build a ministry with, of course. Perhaps another way to think about it is “respect.” William Willimon has a solid article in the current Christian Century (June 17) titled “First Call: From Seminary to Parish.” It’s not online, but track down a copy if you’re not a subscriber. One quote: “The difference between the thought of the laity in your first parish and that of your friends back in seminary is not so much the difference between ignorance and intelligence as it is a difference in ways of thinking. Learn to appreciate the thought and speech of people who are outside of the restrictions imposed by the academy.” Good food for thought for experienced pastors as well as recent seminary grads.