Shouldn't We Treat Farmers More Like Ministers?

Reprinted from Yardfarmers. John Lanier is Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation
May 26, 2016 9:30 AM ET

The life of a religious minister is a curious one, seemingly unique in human society. Whether a rabbi, priest, roshi, bishop, elder, imam, reverend, or any other title, these women and men around the world form an integral part of cultures and communities. But why? Their daily tasks and contributions to society are fundamentally different from bankers, baristas, factory workers and cabbies. Yet they fit in so seamlessly, often holding positions of reverence.

The dedication of clergymen and women is remarkable. Their paths usually begin with years of study on philosophy, divinity and their particular faith traditions, often secluded in a university or seminary. When they do re-emerge into the world as full-fledged clergy, they accept roles that many in our society would rather avoid: caring for the sick, burying the dead, and praying for the needs of an entire congregation. We also look to them as paragons of moral living, expecting more of them than we tend to expect of ourselves. They accept this role willingly as well.

Certainly, there are also enjoyable tasks for our ministers. They lead the sacred celebrations of new birth and of marriage. They are trusted as confidants and advisors in their congregations. They get to speak daily about the blessings that come from communing with the divine.

But in a world where so much is measured in dollars and cents, how do we value our ministers? What is the economic value of a prayer? Or of a visit to a scared and confused child recovering from brain surgery? Or of a shoulder offered in comfort to a grieving widow?

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Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858