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Asking the Clergy: How do you keep yourself current in your vocation?

The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder of Saint Mary's

The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder of Saint Mary's Anglican Church, Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola and the Rev. Joseph Garofalo, of Island Christian Church. Photo Credit: Randoolph Geminder; Avraham Perl; Robert Lipper

Like teachers, doctors and members of other vocations, clergy members need to remain current with best practices to serve their flocks well. This week’s clergy discuss how they stay up-to-date by reading, studying and listening to their congregations.

The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder

Rector, Saint Mary's Episcopal Church, Amityville

Most clergy at some point in their lives learn the value of having a rule of life. It generally includes certain regimens of prayer, reading, reflection and other disciplines that assist in anchoring lives that are generally on call 24/7.

Keeping my vocation as a priest current is largely accomplished by maintaining my rule, which fuels my ability to minister to my congregation and community. The people I serve are the main source of my keeping current. Being a part of their struggles, tragedies and triumphs enables me to remain strong and focused — and humbled by the honor of being welcomed into their journey. The offering of the daily Mass, on-call chaplaincies at three major health institutions, as well as chaplain duty for the police and fire departments all serve to keep me on an even keel, in order that the Christly touch of God's mercy can be continually present among those I am privileged to serve.

It is indeed that privilege that keeps my vocation current.

Rabbi Anchelle Perl

Director, Chabad of Mineola

Staying current in my vocation does not mean to be up-to-date on every breaking news story. Reading a brief daily digest of events is more than adequate.

Staying current means consistent daily study of the Torah, ongoing review of the Code of Jewish Law and the Classical commentaries of the weekly biblical reading. Each day is spent with in-depth private study of the Talmud and Hasidic philosophy. Simply preparing for the weekly obligatory sermons, and the daily life cycles of bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and the end-of-life challenges, doesn’t cut the grade for me. Ultimately, it’s all about how serious one is about one’s vocation.

You are always on top of your game if you remember that it’s not just a job but a mission that transcends the self. This is the lesson I learned when I was 19 years and old studying in Paris. I wanted to become a rabbi at the time, but I was too young. My teacher didn’t comment on my age or my knowledge, but simply said, “If you live a life filled with awe of the Almighty, you will be a good rabbi.”

Staying current to me means to keep studying, to keep revising my learning from its sources. Most importantly, it means never forgetting that it’s all about staying close to God and my role to fill this world with goodness and kindness.

The Rev. Joseph Garofalo

Outreach pastor, Island Christian Church, Northport

For clergy, there are as many training resources today as there are for secular fields, maybe more. Leadership training, church-growth books and webinars, you name it.

However, the most needful thing about my vocation is to seek the Lord. This reminds me of the Lord Jesus’ interaction with two sisters, Mary and Martha (Luke 10:37-42). Jesus had visited them and like any good host, Martha was busy preparing and serving the meal. Mary, on the other hand, simply sat at Jesus’ feet and drank in everything he was saying.

When Martha complained that her sister wasn’t helping, Jesus rebuked — not Mary — but Martha because “Mary had chosen the better part.” (Luke 10:42) Mary had chosen to forgo something and put Christ first.

As a pastor, while it’s vital to help and pray for the congregation and be there for them, unless I sit at Jesus’ feet and seek his presence first, I’ve missed the mark. This translates into spending the first part of my day immersing myself in Scripture and prayer. As Jesus said, that is the better part.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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