I occasionally enjoy reading quirky books. For instance, I recently read (and loved) Maynard: Adventures of a Bacon Curer, the homespun memoir of a man who goes only by his first name, can’t read or write much, and who does work that no longer fits in today’s world.

Maynard became a bacon curer just as that profession died. “Gradually the work became less and people started to shop on price not on quality, which marked the beginning of the decline of a wonderful industry.” A large company bought Maynard’s employer.

They called us one by one in the office and told us what we would be doing in the new factory and how happy we would be, it was like selling us a boat to heaven. So the time came and I was to leave the old factory, which was a sad occasion because there were a lot of memories there and a lot of good men had worked there, but nothing is forever…

I tidied up and then a load of men came in blue overalls and they took some of the machinery out, which they considered to be too old fashioned, so they took sledgehammers to them and smashed them to pieces. They were cast iron machines so they only needed striking once for them to shatter. They had been good machines but had no place in the new era: it upset me terribly as they were good machines and they had done no harm but did not fit in with the new scheme of things…

My old trade did not really exist as nobody wanted a traditional bacon curer anymore: everything was now produced by machines, it was the age of mass production, the era of speed and greed!

Our bacon is cheaper now, but according to Maynard it’s not nearly as good.

…that is what they call bacon, but it is actually pickled pork! Nobody has ever realised; it’s just pickled pork! It would take a lot of imagination to call it bacon. There is a difference between butchers and old curers, like that between a joiner and a cabinet-maker.

We’ve lost some trades and the results like bacon curing, and most of us don’t know the difference.

I read Maynard’s book on vacation, and it got me thinking about more than bacon. It got me thinking about ministry too.

No Place in the New Era

When Maynard described his new employers smashing and scrapping old machines, I thought of the old German slicer at my butcher’s. You can’t buy a machine like that anymore, and the new machines are nowhere near as good.

I also thought of pastoring. We don’t smash machines, but we don’t have much use for old books and approaches. We’ve traded in centuries-old pastoral practices that center on the Word, prayer, and caring for souls for new approaches borrowed from the business and entrepreneurial world. We love size and speed. It’s hard to resist, and yet I wonder what we’ve lost in the process.

Maynard lost his work, so he decided to work on his own. Soon people discovered him and his bacon, and he developed somewhat of a following. Someone from Marks and Spencers even knocked on his door. “We’ve tasted your bacon in London, in Baker Street; we’ve tasted all your regional bacons and we reckon your bacon is the best bacon we have ever tasted. If you are willing, we would like to buy the recipe from you and market it,” the representative said.

We may have lost something of what it used to mean to be a pastor, but I suspect that we can still proceed to rediscover it on our own. When we do, I wonder if some will realize that they’ve never seen pastoring like that before. It may not catch on everywhere, but at least our people will be well served. And who knows? Others may develop an appetite for how pastoring used to be done, because there’s nothing like it. And then we’ll have begun to recover the lost art of pastoring.