Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Andy Griffith and Barney Fife

It was not so long ago that Don Knotts died. One of those classic and wonderful humans that, as a character actor in Hollywood, was somehow also able to enter into our personal lives as a welcome and gentlemanly presence. At least four generations of humans in our culture got to know him first as an ensemble player in "No Time for sergeants," then as Mr. Limpet, then as Barney Fife, then with Tim Conway in "the Apple Dumpling Gang," then as that landlord in "Three's Company." He even made it back to Hollywood in "Pleasantville," lampooning his status as a Golden Age of television icon.

So, I find myself ruminating on one of his most powerful roles as Barney Fife, foil and friend to Andy Griffith in the series of the same name...The comical deputy to the wise sheriff of Mayberry. That, and a series of experiences in that last few days as rector lead me to meditate on icons of leadership--mainly the difference between benevolent Andy and volatile Barney.

We all would like to be Andy, wouldn't we? He is a sheriff who doesn't carry a gun. His authority is derived from his status as wise friend. His power flows from his ability to show people just the right way to live. Even the wildest of situations always seems to resolve in the half hour. It could be something as simple as the fact that one of Aunt Bee's pies is missing...Or it could be something very serious, maybe a truly bad person from out of town needing to be disarmed and apprehended. All done without pulling out a gun.

Not so with Barney. He only gets to carry one bullet. In his pocket. He flies off the handle. He worries. He struts. He frets. People love him, but mostly from his own shortcomings. He is endearing, not necessarily inspiring. At least every other episode, he winds up getting his feelings hurt. Don Knotts could play that pathos to a "t." The soundtrack play a mournful tune. His face melts, his posture and bravado break down. He learns an "important lesson." Andy consoles him. Aunt Bee makes more pie.

Thing is, as leaders we are BOTH of those icons.

From last night to today, I found myself playing those roles. Kind, wise, benevolent rector. Flighty, worried and anxious rector. I was the sheriff who didn't need to carry a gun. I was the deputy wishing that I hadn't locked myself in the cell by accident.

In each case, I got the chance to remember that every leader functions in community. Sometimes, we lead with wisdom and grace. Sometimes, we are led to deeper knowledge of self in the revealed strength of others. Always, we are learning, learning, learning.

I am heartened, though. Vestry last night found us party to a great conversation--"What are we supposed to be doing? What is a vestry? Who are we? What are we called to do?" This morning, I sat with two vestry members, a warden, a staff member and a lawyer to draw the birthing process of TYG, Inc. to a close. We hashed through some of the loose threads of governance that were dangling. Now we can move forward.

So, in your own life...Can you embrace with joy being BOTH Andy and Barney? We serve well the kingdom of God in both capacities.

Just have to remember to not take that bullet out of our collective pocket. Andy wouldn't like that.

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