Anthony B. Robinson
Cascade Books, Eugene, OR. 117 pages
Reviewed by Cyndi Wunder
I’ve been ordained almost six years — so I’m still a “baby” pastor, as one of my friends put it. I remember those first few months (or couple of years, really) when I felt utterly lost and overwhelmed. I remember wanting to lean on my mentors and hearing from them that they were exhausted and would get back to me if time allowed. For most pastors, that overworked, super-busy, I’ll-get-back-to-you-when-I-can message is a continuous issue. Nothing new there, but it does make it really hard for a new pastor to get her grounding, to find someone she can lean on for advice, for some understanding of normal expectations, for some insight into what this odd career and beautiful call is.
Anthony Robinson speaks directly to this initial time of bewilderment and confusion with calming insights and healthy expectations. He offers firm ground on which to stand and recenter one’s self, to find one’s balance again, before diving back into the work. So many of us leave seminary with a good theological education, but we still need tools for management, finances and team building. Robinson addresses those areas where so many of us struggle with kindness and humility.
Written in the form of personal letters to two recent seminary graduates, this book has a very down-to-earth, homey feel to it. It moves in an organized manner from one topic to another, which would make using it as a resource during busy times easy. With the demands of ministry and that initial “bump” of beginning one’s first solo call, this book promises to help ease the transition. It promises to be a great resource for the harried pastor who wants to reassure themselves that the norms and expectations they are establishing are healthy and ethical, that they are not trying to carry the whole ministry themselves, nor are they letting their personal relationships languish.
This charming book reads as if it were written by a favorite uncle. The downside of this is that it reflects the ministry of a heteronormative white man. Although it is written with love and kindness, Robinson does not appear to recognize or address the unique aspects of being in ministry as a woman, a person of color or someone who is gender-nonconforming. He exudes a confidence in our churches’ willingness to hire and support women in pastoral roles that is admirable, but is not the lived experience of most of us.
I would have loved to see Robinson “pass the mic” and have a chapter written by someone who does have the lived experience to help address discrimination and misogyny. It is so helpful to know that none of us have to have all the answers all the time. I believe he missed an opportunity to live into that reality. We can and should pass the mic to those whose lived experience is different from ours. Particularly during this time of transition, we need all the voices.
This is a book that I would have loved to have received as a newly ordained pastor. It’s incredibly helpful and a friendly read. It reminds me that although things are changing, we are all in this together. We need one another and we need to pass on whatever bit of wisdom comes our way.
Cyndi Wunder is pastor of Lodi Presbyterian Church in Lodi, Wisconsin. She is a former drug and alcohol counselor, burlesque fan and equine enthusiast.