Monday, September 8, 2008
In the last week of my theological training we were told by the principal that we should not make friends of people in the congregations we work with. It is too complicated, and causes problems for your work. Again and again in my time in Workplace Chaplaincy I have been told by my superiors, "You cannot make friends of your 'clients', keep your 'professional' boundaries clear." My boss on a couple of occasions wanted to move me on from the Fireservice chaplaincy, because I was too friendly with the troops. It all sounds very logical and reasonable, but if I stuck to these instructions it would make ministry a very lonely journey. (It is that anyway, for a lot of reasons.) I work 50 - 60 hours per week. I have little time to go to the pub, the club or whatever, to meet and make friends outside of work! I did a course at Polytech in 1994 and made two friends, running with them at lunch times. Since then we have brief contact from time to time, but no natural time to build on and develop the friendship we started. (Being tied up every weekend, when others are free to socialise, makes keeping in touch with even extended family very difficult.) I have not kept to the rules above, but have been careful and cautious about who I really expose myself to. Even then there have been complications. There can be deep differences of opinion about Church work. There is some truth in what the principal said.
I had 70 people at my birthday party. There could have been more if I had pushed the invitation. I have a great host of acquaintances who I am on friendly terms with and they all enrich my life. Amongst my congregation and chaplaincy "clients" I have some people I am closer to than others. I tramp with some firefighters. I have a collegial friendship with people involved in Habitat for Humanity and the Night Shelter Trust. I value the quality of the people I rub shoulders with, and enjoy the journey with them in these groups. I would count a few members of my congregation among my friends. I have a couple from a previous congregation that I still count as "friends". I am a very fortunate man. But having said all that, I have very few really close friends, and really appreciate the ones I have. What constitutes a "friend?" Here are some quotes about friendship.
"Real friends are those who, when you have made a fool of yourself, don't feel that you've made a permanent job."
"A friend is a person with whom you dare to be yourself."
"Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer."
"Friendship is like a rainbow between two hearts."
"True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable."
"Friends.... they cherish each other's hopes. They are kind to each other's dreams." (Henry David Thoreau)
If you are my friend.... thank you for being my friend. I value your friendship.
(Photos: A friend and I in a half marathon and with two college friends who have kept in touch for 36 years, though we have lived in different countries.- don't ask about the outfits!)