Thursday, April 14, 2005

ruminations on rectoring

I had an experience last night that has given me both "pause for thought" and a chance to ruminate on my role as rector:

Things have really been going swimmingly. I feel like I really have found a niche in which I fit and in which I will be able to truly and effectively minister to the Body in my priesthood. That being said, I am also aware that while God promises us a lot of things...the rose garden is not one of them. This call entails tough work. Real challenge. The opportunity to fail AND succeed with grace.

Last night, after a ministry meeting, I had a conversation with a parishioner about something that I had not done which had resulted in people feeling wounded. I hate to disappoint, to wound; and while I know that it is an inevitable part and portion of being a leader, I don't look forward to those confrontations, both with the other and with myself.

I had a chance in that moment, I believe, to claim resonsibility for what I had left undone and to begin to do the thing which I ought to have done. Still, it set off a thought line that I don't want to lose.

Being a leader means more that being brilliant, or aggressive or confident or sure...or even humble. It means being willing to be one's own true self. Taking responsibility is a whole soul experience as a rector and leader of a community.

Being a leader means being willing to walk with integrity and humility with the people you lead, to be radically available to what is happening around you. I practice this ideal in martial arts, I struggle with it at home and in work.

This Sunday upcoming is Easter 4, Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus models for us one of the great "I AM" passages. He claims to be a good shepherd, one who hears the voice of the sheep...and whose voice the sheep recognize. He is the one radically available to the herd in the place and the time it lives in and from. That means that he is willing to lay down his life (and he does, on the cross) for the sheep. I have a lot to learn about leadership in that vein.

In talking to one vestry member the other day, I brought up the greek concept of praus, or meekness. We see that as a negative trait in our culture. Our leaders are supposed to be strong and resolute. What happens when we take another stance? Meekness in that ancient world was seen as a virtue, not a detriment, lending itself to making a ruler "good," both in the eyes of the people...more importantly in the eyes of God. It is, itself, the summoning up of the intent, courage and resolve requisite to service--summed up in a line from H. Frankemolle: renouncing violence in faithful trust in Yahweh.

Trusting God, renouncing violent coercion and moving forward in meekness defines the Good Shepherd.

From "Preaching Peace" by Jeff Krantz and Michael Harden:

So What?

What kind of leaders do we follow? Who do we esteem, value or hold dear? Are our models competitive or serving? Whom do we desire to be like, to aspire to? Who is it that captivates our attention? Who do we find ourselves thinking about? When we answer these questions we will have already answered the question “what kind of leader are we?” The latter question is frequently the primary question asked in leadership books. It should be, instead, the second question for when it is put first the mimetic role of our own models (internal or external) is hidden from us.

Some sermon thoughts.

Lately, I have been called to model some different forms of leadership within the preaching sphere. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been told in preaching classes or preaching texts (I've read a lot of them because I sometimes teach homiletics in our local theological school.) that it is "inappropriate" for the preacher to bring too much of herself or himself into the pulpit. It is inappropriate for us as preachers to "draw attention to ourselves."

I think this plays into the very mimetic trap into which we as "leaders" are constantly tempted to fall. We are not to talk about ourselves because we are to be one of the group, but one set apart in some ontological way (in other words, we are to become a model worthy of rivalry).

I am convinced, as I try to work out this understanding of violence and mimesis that I am called to break these molds of ministry, to break some rules.

And it pays.

I have taken to "witnessing" to the power of the Gospel in my own life, rather than resorting to cute or moving anecdotes about other people.

I have shared my pain, my need for the prayers and witness of my own congregation, and my trust than in them I will find the same strength they seek from me. I don't do this every week, or even every other week, but when the text and my own prayers call for it.

And it pays.

I can only say that there is in our congregation a new excitement about the Gospel. People don't always understand what it is I'm up to, but they like how church feels.

Try being the leader who isn't caught in the mimetic web.

It pays.

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