An Open Letter to the Allegheny Synod on Clergy Appreciation Month

Friends in Christ, on this last day of October, the last day of Clergy Appreciation Month, I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for our pastors, deacons and vicars. I hope you have done the same. Our leaders are dedicated, faithful servants of the Gospel and I am proud of the way they are serving our Synod in challenging times.

What concerns me is the way that many of our pastors are treated. We hear people say our pastors aren’t worth what they are paid. We hear people question the pastor’s personal family decisions. We hear individual pastors being blamed for trends that are happening across the whole church—even in denominations other than our own. We hear how their ideas for ministry are openly ridiculed.


It’s disturbing and painful to Pastor Kevin and me, but even more so to the ones to whom it is happening. I understand when someone has a bad day and lets off some steam in a stressful situation. However, when this kind of behavior is consistent and chronic, it’s not okay; we end up losing good, solid pastors to other Synods. Believe it or not, word gets around the church pretty quickly that our Synod is one in which it can be hard to serve and it then becomes harder to attract leaders to our Synod.


These are challenging times for the church and our world. It’s not easy being a pastor, deacon or vicar these days—and it’s even harder when one is up against disrespect and humiliation. Belittling each other or demanding your own way is not the way forward. The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian church tells us that Jesus calls us to “a still more excellent way”—the way of love because “love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)


Not every congregation in our Synod is experiencing these challenges, but it seems to be a growing trend. Pastor Kevin and I are committed to finding ways to make a shift in this culture and call us back to our center—Jesus and his enduring love—but we can’t do it alone. Will you be someone who commits to helping change the trend? Will you commit to praying for your pastor, deacon or vicar every day—especially when you might not agree with something that was said or done? Will you pray for the courage to challenge others who might be displaying bad behavior and to do it with respect and love?


If you haven’t yet expressed your appreciation for your pastor, deacon or vicar, I hope you will take a moment today to do it. You’ll never know what one kind word can mean amidst challenges you may never hear about.


+Bishop Paula