By Ed Thompson

Apparently, September 9 is “Buy Your Priest a Beer Day.” I ran across this somewhat useless piece of information when I was looking at my news feed or perhaps scrolling through my emails. It might actually have been mentioned in a post on Jan Edminston’s blog, “A Church for Starving Artists.” (Side note – This is one of the most insightful blogs that I follow on a regular basis. Jan is a former co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly and now serves as the General Presbyter for Charlotte Presbytery. You can read some of her recent posts and, if you like, sign up to follow her blog.)

I’m not sure if “Buy Your Priest a Beer Day” is meant as a Roman Catholic alternative to Pastor Appreciation Month in October or what. There’s certainly no reason that you can’t celebrate both. I’m also not sure whether most Protestant pastors are teetotalers or not. I know that I have seldom, if ever, tried to buy a beer (or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter) on my presbytery credit card either here or in Northern Kansas. I don’t think I ever asked about doing that but just assumed it would be frowned upon by the Treasurer as well as by the Personnel Committee.

However, the contents of the beverage don’t really matter. What counts is spending some time with your priest or pastor in a relaxing, non-work setting, shooting the breeze, getting to know them, spending some quality time together. I don’t think that happens very often. At least I can’t remember it happening very often when I was serving a church. Most conversations I had with church members had to do with the church. Those conversations needed to happen, and that’s OK. People did get to know me by listening to my sermon illustrations, which assumes, of course, that they were listening to my sermons – which may or may not be a valid assumption. To be fair, people probably paid more attention to my sermon illustrations than they did to the rest of the sermon. So, I felt that on one level people did get to know me pretty well, especially after several years. But on another level, I never felt that they really knew me. Sharing a beer together – even once a year – would have helped to change that.

So I encourage you to celebrate “Buy Your Priest a Beer Day.” Again, you could buy your pastor a soda, an iced tea, or even a milkshake. It doesn’t have to be on September 9, either. If too many church members bought their priest/pastor a beer on the same day, the later few conversations might be more open, as well as more enjoyable, than either party was expecting or felt was appropriate upon later reflection. Of course indulging in too many milkshakes on the same day wouldn’t be that much fun, either.

You could ask your pastor about their hopes and dreams, their joys, and their frustrations. You could ask how they got into the ministry – if it was their own idea or if they were poorly advised. You could ask about their family, their hobbies, their plans for the next year or for the future. It doesn’t have to be – and it shouldn’t turn out to be – a game of 20 Questions or Gotcha. Nor is this an opportunity to engage in a more modern – and more Protestant – version of the Spanish Inquisition. It’s a chance for you to get to know your pastor better, a chance for you to see, to recognize, and to appreciate that they are human, too. Sometimes, I think pastors are put up on a pedestal, and people don’t see them as human. Sometimes, though, it works the other way, and pastors don’t get credit for what they’re trying to do and they get blamed for things that aren’t really their fault.

The day may be a silly day – maybe not as silly as International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which falls a little over a week later on September 19 – but it can serve as a reminder that we can talk to and treat our pastors as genuine human beings who enjoy the same things that we do.