Parishioners look to pastors as experts on God, as if they know intimately the character and will of the Eternal. Pastors have read great theologians and argued finer points of salvation. They use fancy words to talk about our beliefs. They exegete the Bible, reading it in Greek and Hebrew. They stand before parishioners in worship, preaching as if they have the answers and praying as if they are confidants with the Creator of the universe.
But God is not known in textbooks and just because pastors act like they know God doesn’t mean they really do. Pious prayers and learned dogma must be tested in the struggles and fears of each new experience, in the hurts and healing of relationships, and in the sadness and joy of each day. Pastors are on the same journey as parishioners, a journey to discover meaning and hope in a mixed up and puzzling world.
Parishioners often give pastors a unique and sacred privilege by inviting them to accompany parishioners on their journeys. They look to pastors not for counsel to solve problems but to walk alongside, helping them to see and taste the presence, mercy and comfort of God unfolding in their lives. The search for God heightens as we see our lives and the lives of our loved ones draw to a close.
Looking for Life on the Way to the Grave: Pastoral Journeys amidst the Dying and Grieving comprises stories of journeys that Neal R. Sadler was privileged to undertake with his parishioners as they travelled through doubt and belief, fear and faith, humor and laughter on the way to the grave. Confronting aging, grieving and dying they searched together for God’s spirit and voice. The stories, of course, are not just about grieving and dying, for in encountering death we learn best how to live.
About the Author
After initially pursuing a career as an actuary, Neal R. Sadler served churches for more than 35 years as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He journeyed with parishioners in the joys and challenges of seeking to love God and serve one another. His degrees are from the University of Michigan (B.A., MBA), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Asbury Theological Seminary (D.Min.). Neal enjoys creating sermons in story form to open listeners to the biblical message. He has a special interest in local and global missions, leading numerous mission trips in the United States and overseas.
Neal and his wife, Carolyn, enjoy long-distance hiking in Europe and exploring America on their tandem bicycle. Carolyn, too, is a former actuary, and happily retired. They have two children, Nathan and Deborah, one grandchild, Anna, and a daughter-in-law, Katelyn, who is also an ordained UCC pastor.