Brian and I had some really close pastor friends. You know, the type of friends who come along a handful of times in your life. The ones who are both authentically compassionate and incredibly funny. When we first got together, we would have to schedule weeks in advance, because we had to fit them into a block of time that was large enough for us to clean the house and cook a meal before they came.
Then, slowly and surely, we quit pretending like we lived in the pages of Real Simple magazine. We would allow each other in the door, even when our homes were covered with pet hair. Then we stopped cooking meals and ordered Chinese food. Then, we didn’t need six hours to prepare for a visit, so we began to see each other more frequently.
Finally, we ended up watching TLC together on Sunday night (honestly, it was a show about cleaning out closets). I think we were all too tired to change the channel. The four of us just sat, in that comatose state that one enters into after a really, really big Sunday. The last barrier had crumbled. We didn’t even have to entertain each other any more.
I miss them. I knew how lucky we were at the time. I realized how amazing it was to have friends like that. I also knew that we were all just beginning, and the three of them were exceptionally gifted pastors. Between the four of us, two were happily employed (that’s often the sad case with clergy couples), so it would not be long before someone moved.
They left first. We promised a thousand times that we would visit…but…it’s been years now….
Okay. The point of this post was not to mourn my good friends, although I’m in thick of it now. The point was to tell you about the yard sales. They were moving, and we were broke, so the four of us began to gather our stuff together, pricing the odds and ends, and putting them on rickety card tables to sell (maybe we did actually learn something from the closet program). But here’s the thing: We couldn’t combine the sales. We had to have two of them because they needed a way to anonymously sell the gifts that their congregations had given to them.
One of them, especially, had been given boxes and boxes of stuff that was wonderful and sweet, but when we asked, “Is it worth moving?” We had to shake our heads. (Just for the record, my congregations have been extremely good at gifts. And I’m not just saying that.) But in her collection, there were snow globes, Pooh bears, Noah’s arks, stuffed animals, Jesus dolls, bird figurines, and fish on plaques that sang “Take me to the River.” You get the idea. She didn’t even have kids, but her parsonage was full of things that could never really make it into a moving van.
This all comes up because The Presbyterian Outlook reminded me that October is Pastor Appreciation month. Which is not celebrated in our church (is it anywhere?). Just in case it is, you know that pastors are grateful for anything that our parishioners give. And certainly, a drawing from your five year old will be utterly cherished. But if you’re wandering around, looking for some guidance in the clergy department, here are some of my favorite gifts:
(1) Food gifts. In our house, these are the tops. We get giddy when Harry and David come to visit our porch. And if the return address says Wolfermans, well, we’re in heaven. I completely agree with Michael Scott on The Office, the gourmet basket is the way to go.
(2) Gift certificates. They’re given a bad rap, but I love them. The key is, make it to a place where the pastor already shops. For instance, before you invest in a massage certificate, make sure that the person would actually do it. I get one from Amazon for Christmas, and I always use it.
(3) Nice religious things. Alright. I’m going to be frank, and I hope I don’t come off as too crass, but it must be said: If you’re going religious, then you’ll have to spend some dollars or you’ll end up with kitsch. You probably don’t want to buy your pastor the stuff that’s next to the cash register at LifeWay. I would suggest James Avery. Beautiful, artistic, and my husband loves it as much as I do.
What about you? What was your worst gift? What was your best? Is there anything on your secret wish list? If there is, it’s time to â€˜fess up, and be anonymous if you must. If there are pastors being appreciated this month, the good people out there need your guidance.