In pastoral theology books, the idea is sometimes referred to as sacrificial leadership. I suppose the idea is to inspire us, but I think that term only inspires a prejudice that this sort of leadership is best reserved to the more spiritually advanced, OR to those with martyrdom complex issues.
Still, I think the idea of putting yourself at stake is essential to good leadership. It means in the life of the church that you have ceased to be one of those who sit and wait to be asked to "help" and become one who looks around for something to lead others into doing.
We have a ministry here at Trinity that moves me, Peacemeal. A simple, monthly dinner for people surviving with AIDS/HIV. It grew out of one woman saying after learning of people in her own back yard that were struggling with these dis-eases, "I want to feed them. We need to feed them."
So, now we feed them. And in that, we are fed. And the Body grows.
It takes a willingness to sacrifice self to the ministry in some ways, though...both small and great.
I once saw a movie in which Richard Harris, of all people, played Abraham. In one scene, his son is asking him about what it means to make a sacrifice to God. Harris says this, "Well, you take the thing that is most dear to you, and you give it to God, all of it. So that nothing of that precious thing is left for you to hang on to."
It is all God's.
Not an easy thing to embrace in this post-modern world. I am not talking about people who have only just come to Church and to Christ. I am talking about the evolved, ethical and wonderful people who fill the pews of Trinity Church on a weekly, on a daily basis. These are folk, myself included, who struggle with being good people day in and day out, for weeks on end. They serve on boards and committees that do great work for social and economic justice. In this area of the world, many labor to bring lifesaving pharmaceuticals to market in order to heal people and save lives. Everyone works HARD to raise their kids and serve their God in community. All look to their church to support them in these monumental tasks...and yet where do the leaders come from? What do we expect of them...or, more importantly, what do we expect of ourselves when asked to serve?
I got a complimentary copy of the Living Church yesterday in the mail. They send one to all clergy this time of year as a marketing effort. I don't much like the magazine. It used to be a great weekly digest of what was going on in the Episcopal Church. Nowadays they have taken a more partisan stance...and that irks me. Still, there was an article in this issue the REALLY caught my eye. It was a priest's ruminations on his imminent retirement. Titled "The Rector's Tasks," it was the first really concise delivery of how I see my work here...and the challenges of people's expectations of the rector in leadership. Extrapolate that to lay leadership, particularly the vestry, and I think I have the beginnings of a core-value statement, a manifesto of ministry if you will.
He held that there are only three tasks the rector is called upon to model to his/her people:
- Keep the doors open
- Maintain the center
- Challenge the culture
Advice I get from many quarters is that the more complex and "large" the parish, the more reducible and simple the message needs to be at the core.
At Trinity, our core is "We welcome all." As an aside-one of the reasons I felt called to Trinity was that statement of hospitality. Along with an open table, the first real steps toward Keeping the Doors Open had already been taken. The journey was already begun. It just lies in our path now to re-center on that radical welcome and to come to terms with just how dramatically it has altered our culture here on Solebury Hill.
So, I will be spending some time on those three points of a leader's responsibility in light of that radical sense of welcome in the coming posts.