Hope for Those Mired in Mud: Toward a Nonprofessional Ministry of Practical Wisdom

L. Gregory Jones

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 7/1/1990

Issue: Church Talk: Slogans and Shibboleths (Vol. 10, No 3, Summer, 1990)

The Protestant ministry seems to be in rather sad shape these days. Morale is low, the demands are high, and “clergy burnout” has become a hot topic. Members of the clergy seem to have lost their bearings. Unsure about what their vocation is, and beset by the frequently unrealistic demands placed on them by their parishioners, clergy have frequently resorted to insisting that they are no better and no worse than the laity. They are, after all, “only human.” Protestants tend to think Roman Catholics are in better shape. But along comes Joe Hackett, a Roman Catholic priest who is the main character in J. F. Powers’ novel, Wheat That Springeth Green. The pathologies of contemporary ministry have also infected Hackett’s Roman Catholicism, particularly through the “professionalization” of the ministry. Indeed, juxtaposing Powers’ portrayal of Hackett with the fourth-century Bishop Ambrose’s account of the ideal character of Christian clergy reveals some themes which suggest how Protestants and Catholics alike might recover a ministry of practical wisdom.

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