In my random blog-walk of the morning, I get from empathy and arts in government to the state helping an anti-gay church find a pastor.
My post just now about art’s ability to develop empathy reminded me of a press release last week from Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office about a workforce development report released at last week’s Western Governors’ Association meeting in Rapid City. This report reflects Governor Daugaard’s approach to education as a cattle chute to meet employers’ needs. In 22 pages, the report hints at a possible role for artsy-fartsiness once, on page 6:
Increasingly, employers identify skills such as critical thinking, creativity and interpersonal communication as keys to success in the 21st century workforce [Western Governors’ Association, 2018 Workforce Development Initiative, June 2018, p. 6].
Critical thinking, creativity, and communication are all skills that are improved by a rich liberal arts education in which students practice those skills by engaging with great novels, poems, plays, movies, paintings, sculptures, symphonies, and songs to interpret the intent of the artists and to live the experiences of the characters portrayed. But the WGA doesn’t mention arts as a component of making better workers; no, no, no, the governors just say we need to Integrate State Efforts to Value All Pathways to Connect Education to In-Demand Careers while we Upgrade Skills and Address Rural Challenges (the latter point is of particular importance, apparently, because robots are going to plant all of our crops and build all of our stuff, leaving most of the rural workforce wondering what humans are for, which existential angst the rural governors will solve by giving rural folks broadband so they can telecommute).
Apparently one of the exemplar Integrated State Efforts to develop workforce is South Dakota’s Hot Careers website, which lists jobs that “meet criteria based on high-wage, high-demand jobs in South Dakota.” According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, “high demand” means more than eighteen openings each year, and “high-wage” means more than $38,503 a year.
Making that grade is Clergy, which the state says has an average annual demand of 45 and an annual wage of $43,845. But right now, Hot Careers lists just two Clergy jobs: a chaplain at Avera in Mitchell and a pastor in Buffalo. Here’s the pitch from Buffalo’s Shortgrass Lutheran Parish:
Greetings and Gods Blessings to you! Shortgrass Lutheran Parish (LCMC) is searching for our new pastor. We are a 3 point parish consisting of 3 small rural churches headquartered out of Buffalo, SD. All the safety and kindness of a ranching and small town community, but also a Blue Ribbon school district, and plenty of Gods work taking place through the activities of the Parish! We have much to offer and pray God will connect us with the pastor that has been searching for us! If you, or a pastor you know of may be a fit for us, please check us out. If not, prayers are gratefully accepted! Our position is listed on the LCMC website, the Lutheran Core page, or contact: Darwin Latham- SGLP Search Chairman for more information or to request a digital information/application packet. Call or text (605)641-9041 Email . Thank you for your time, and best wishes to you from Shortgrass Lutheran Parish! [job listing #jo_822525548, South Dakota Department of Labor, retrieved 2018.07.02]
The Shortgrass Lutheran Parish is less than a decade old: the three churches—Bethlehem in Ludlow; Ladner; and Little Missouri just across the border in Capitol, Montana—split off from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in opposition to the ELCA’s 2009 decision to allow the ordination of openly gay pastors. Usually Lutheran pastor jobs are handled within the synod; they don’t post their jobs online for applications or interviews; the church council gets together, reviews the roster of pastors available for a new call, invites a pastor to interview and preach, then listens to see if God is calling that pastor to that church. The Lutheran God usually doesn’t make that call through the state job board.
And I don’t usually see my tax dollars being used to help a church find a pastor. Even if the job is high-wage and high-demand—and while I have my doubts about how much compensation a three-point parish with a total average attendance of 62 can muster, I’m sure their demand for a pastor who will drive 125 high lonesome miles to give three sermons every Sunday far outstrips supply—I have to wonder why those of us who don’t get all schismatic over gay pastors or who don’t even go listen to pastors on Sunday are footing the bill for a tiny rural parish’s pastor search.
I do have empathy for my fellow South Dakotans trying to maintain basic community institutions in a place where there’s only one person every two square miles. But I hope they’ll empathize with me when I express First Amendment concerns about expending state resources to help any church find a pastor, not to mention churches that have exacerbated their own workforce challenges by splitting off from a larger organization to preserve their stance against homosexuals.