Calling upstairs in your own house may seem strange, but this arrangement helped maintain boundaries with our good friends. Ron and Rosha were not just neighbors, they lived in the upstairs apartment. And they belonged to the church I pastor.
Just before moving in, Rosha, pregnant, suffered complications requiring home rest. Despite some hesitation at moving again, they both soon felt glad about the new situation. Instead of Rosha being alone all day, I could check on her. Over those tense months, we shared more than a house. We shared many prayers and concerns, which led to the joyful delivery of their first-born son, Rajiv, that fall. Our daughters were soon like sisters to Rajiv.
It was good to have close friends, even if friendships with parishioners are a bit risky.
Soon after I moved to Cincinnati to marry Roger and plant a church, my only other friends in town moved. Ben and Cheryl had introduced Roger and me. Both pastors, Ben and Cheryl were mature friends who also understood the challenges of ministry. When they moved to pastor in another town, my only remaining friends were Roger's colleagues.
Missing Ben and Cheryl, I wondered, Do we look to our congregation for friends? One early attempt was with Anna.
When Anna and her husband, Kent, moved to our neighborhood, I rejoiced at the prospect of a friend. We shared a similar stage in life and began to spend time together. But soon, I felt we were struggling in our relationship. I asked Anna if we could talk about it.
"Anna," I confessed, "you're my best friend." I felt vulnerable baring my heart.
"Kathy, I don't know if I can be friends with a pastor," Anna admitted. "I feel intimidated, like I can't measure up." Yet as we talked, Anna also criticized me for some faults ...