When I entered seminary, most students arrived directly from university. The director of field education believed theological students should experience jobs getting their hands dirty. So the first internship term was in manual labour. Students worked as garbage collectors, gardeners for the parks department, and even at the sewage treatment plant. I was a midnight shift emergency room orderly.
Our reading provides insight into the life of the apostle Paul. He worked alongside Aquila making tents to support his missionary work. Elsewhere we learn that he also received financial assistance from congregations he had founded. Paul has become a model for clergy who are dependent upon secular employment to finance their ministry. We describe such people as tentmaking ministers or even worker-priests.
Our church today explores various models for providing ministry. Small or isolated parishes may not have the resources to afford full-time professional clergy. Paul’s tentmaking model may increasingly make sense to church leaders as they seek to provide ministry to all the people of God, wherever they may gather. Some pastors and diaconal ministers will work secular jobs in addition to their parish responsibilities. The church will continue to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.
Gracious God, raise up faithful servants of your Word in all times and in all places, that your church may flourish and grow. Amen. — JG