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The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies) Paperback – December 30, 2008
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"Barnes knows all about being a pastor, how to use authority, how to lead, how to listen, and how to provoke. He knows, moreover, that it finally all comes down to faithful words that can conjure alternative scenarios of the future. In a society cold with technical reason, this summons to poetic truth is of huge importance."
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The paradigm of TPMP is that there are major poets and minor poets. Major poets are visionaries, quirky and freaky in most cases, whose work influences generations. For the pastor, the major poets are the writers of Scripture. Minor poets are those, like pastors, who see the subtext of particular people and situations, and also see those people and situations in the major poets. TPMP is a clarion call for pastors to be faithful to the Bible and to the churches they serve, without falling prey to the many false identities and gimmicks our church culture wants to force onto the pastorate.
TPMP is worth reading, highly recommend this Barnes' work to professional clergy and anyone who loves the Church.
At the same time it is not a practical handbook, it is actually more than that. It is one soul who interacts with and reaches out to other souls, daily. It would be helpful for a senior seminarian seminar course or CPE, then re-read at every couple of years intervals.
The goal, it seems, is to clarify a confusion pastors live with right now - what it means to be a pastor. It seems to be a great problem if men and women are entering professions they can't properly or deeply define, but I think he is right. We have simply let the role of pastor be defined for us in recent decades and we need to work to recover its true meaning.
The image Barnes uses to control the book is that of pastor as a "minor poet." Major poets are the larger-than-life biblical and historical figures who change almost everything, but the vast majority of us fit into the "minor poet" role as we work on translating the truths of God into a fuzzy and broken world. All in all, I think the metaphor is a helpful one. From time to time it seems a bit stretched, but it really comes home in some of the final chapters as Barnes uses T.S. Elliot's "The Three Voices of Poetry" to help define the pastoral vocation. I was surprised at how helpful that rubric was.
The book is short but important. If you are a pastor, I challenge you to pick up this book and others like it to re-ground your vocation and break away from the definitions placed on you from the outside. If you know someone wanting to be a pastor, give them this book and see how it strikes them. I found it encouraging, helpful and needful at the same time.