A Mission Statement
I struggle sometimes to explain what it is that the Clergy are called to do.
Recently we took a climate survey here at the Temple. As a result, we learned that many of our members and guests aren’t completely certain what the Clergy are, much less what we do. And I learned that I have trouble putting what it is that I do into words.
We are called to serve as spiritual guides for those seeking to walk the Jedi Path. We are charged with a responsibility for the spiritual well-being of our members and guests. No two of us see our mission the same way.
But I have trouble journaling about what my ministry looks like. It’s always there, whether I’m parenting or playing music, practicing law or working retail, teaching or learning.
How in the world do you describe something that just is?
A friend suggested that perhaps what I need is a mission statement. As a body, we in the Clergy have been mulling that over for years now. As a new Minister, I once wrote a mission statement for my personal ministry. It talked about service, and tolerance, and meeting people exactly where they are. It had a nice turn of phrase or two.
I threw it out.
Tolerance, understanding, service – those things are important. But they’re not the mission statement. Not the real one, anyway.
And I came to realize that the reason it is so hard to describe what I do as a minister is that I never know exactly what I’ll be called on to do as a minister.
So I start with the things I do know.
I believe that as a Jedi, I am called upon to make love and compassion the constant, the central animating principle that informs everything else I might do. Each small action, done with compassion, influences the world, whether we can see its effect or not. This I believe.
I believe that as a member of the Clergy, I am called upon to cultivate empathy. It’s not enough to listen. We have to listen with the intention to remove the distance between us and another, to put ourselves in the metaphorical shoes of the person with whom we are interacting. We have to listen with the intention to truly understand, as best we can. This I believe.
Compassion should make us willing to practice empathy. Empathy in turn fuels our compassion.
. . . and then it feels like there should be a third thing, doesn’t it? These kinds of things come in threes. It should be a really good thing that sums up the action that derives from the practice of the first two. A single word would be good; that would make it snappy, impactful.
But I just can’t find a single word that fits. All that important stuff about service, and tolerance, and understanding, caring for the spiritual well-being of others, serving as a spiritual guide, trying to improve the world through uncounted tiny acts of compassion -- how do you put all that into a single word?
The reason it is so hard to describe what I do as a minister is that I never know exactly what I’ll be called on to do as a minister. What that looks like from moment to moment is doing whatever the moment requires:
It might be just a smile and a positive vibe.It might be a heartfelt expression of gratitude, showing another that you recognize the divine in them even if others don’t.
It might be listening without judgment, an empathetic ear, a shoulder upon which to lean or cry.
It might be an insightful question that helps another examine what they are doing or feeling.
Or it might just be being there, being available and reliably so, for what my friend Twigga calls “allowing people to be ‘people-y’ on you.”
Just as the moment requires.
And that elusive third word that means, “Appropriate act, TBD.”
That’s the mission statement.