(RNS) — Alex Lang thought he was done with the pastorate for good.On Sunday, Aug. 27, Lang bid farewell to the congregation at First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where he’d served for a decade.
His final sermon done, Lang sat down and typed out some thoughts on why he left not only First Presbyterian but the pastorate altogether. Lang posted that essay a few days later on his website, thinking his few hundred regular readers might be interested.
He was partly right. His regular readers were interested. And so were about 350,000 of Lang’s colleagues.
Lang’s essay, entitled “Why I Left the Church,” went viral — and prompted a national conversation among clergy about the pressures of the profession and how they talk about those pressures. Over coffee and in Facebook posts and denomination offices, Lang’s essay became the topic du jour for clergy around the country. Some resonated with his concerns, while others saw his leaving as a lack of faith.
“I’ve done more than 50 articles,” said the 43-year-old Lang during an interview at his home outside of Chicago. “Usually nobody cares.”
His more recent essay became a blank slate for people to write their own experiences on. Many of those experiences are difficult — as pastors have become burnt out caring for people’s souls amid the decline of organized religion known as the “Great Dechurching” and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Alex raised issues that are relevant and resona …