While attending a recent seminar for hospice chaplains, I couldn't help notice just how different people who call themselves "ministers" can be.
The conference room was filled with men and women alike, some in suits and some in jeans, and some with starched, white clergy collars announcing there vocation to all who would take notice.
Some took copious notes and interjected their own opinions and experiences during the proceedings, and some acted as if they were just there for the continuing education credits and that it was all they could to stay awake.
After speaking with many of the attendees, a very informal count suggested the crowd consisted of retired pastors, recent seminary graduates, part-time chaplains and full-time chaplains, those affiliated with hospitals and those working with private, for-profit hospice organizations.
Some held college degrees -- advanced and not-so-advanced -- and others had only their many years of on-the-field pastoral experience to guide them in their hospice chaplain endeavors.
Some of the ministers came from traditional, main-line denominational traditions, while others expressed views that may be considered a little bit out there -- maybe even mystical.
Some seemed to embrace mythology and ritual as much as scripture. Others stood fast in their belief in scripture as the sole foundation of all that we do as ministers.
The ministers present were young and not-so young; vibrant and not-so vibrant; cheerful and not-so cheerful.
Many seemed preoccupied with their cell phones and Raspberries and other hand-held data devices. Some understood conference etiquette, while others obviously did not, talking just above a whisper during most of the presentations.
I was struck, also, with the seeming lack of "reverence" seen during this meeting of "reverends."
Many found it hard to hold their tongues during times of prayer. Others cursed with regularity during conversations with others in the group. These off-color remarks were usually accompanied by a nod and a wink.
During one specified time of sharing mistakes we may have made in our work with patients who are nearing end-of-life, one of the middle-aged men reported he had once been told by a patient's son that the patient didn't like the son being there when the minister visited because the son smoked, drank, and used filthy language.
The minister went on to say that in an effort to defuse the situation he had informed the young man that he, too, enjoyed a smoke now and then, would from time to time partake of the "fruit of the vine," and that he was prone to use some very colorful language now and again.
When he called the home prior to his next visit, the chaplain was asked not to come. Seems the patient had told her family she didn't want a minister coming to see her who admittedly smoked, cussed, and drank alcohol.
Yep. As far as ministers go, there may be vast differences in the way we minister. But there also are many similarities.