Permission? – don’t wait
I’ve heard it said that the best mark of a group leader is how well the group has been prepared to prosper without one. In church terms, a good indicator of a successful incumbency is how well the churches can manage in an interregnum. If the departing priest was someone who insisted on making all the decisions, allowing nobody else to do or say anything that threatened the priest’s power, then the church community is unlikely to be well prepared to manage in a vacancy. It will be fractured and fractious, like naughty children when the teacher leaves the room. If, on the other hand, the priest encourages others to have a hand in the administration, the liturgy, and the generation of ideas and plans for the future, and is prepared to let people have responsibility, then things may well run pretty smoothly in a vacancy. I don’t wish to be a priest of the first category—I would like to be one of the second. So I’m delighted to see people volunteering—or being volunteered—to enrich the life of our churches and communities. I remember our children finding out that helping themselves to sweets and then telling us (or not), was ‘better’ than asking first and being told ‘no’. Better, surely, to ask forgiveness than seek permission.
Did you see on TV recently the programme about English teenagers living with the Amish? One was pampered (smothered?) by parents; one was sponging off benefits. They grew up pretty quickly. Ministers who keep their congregations in nappies stunt their growth, and congregations who expect the minister to do everything for them will never grow up. Taking responsibility for oneself is one of the Gospel messages, and it is a real healing act. If we expect healing to mean medical cure, as if biological processes can and should be reversed by the odd prayer here or there, then we live in a fool’s paradise. Jesus the healer helping people come to terms with the situations they are in. Healing as acceptance of reality. Healing as preparation for future development. Healing as salvation, liberation.
Stress for fun
Muscles and bones grow by being stressed and challenged. Healthy immune systems work when challenged (we’re too clean). Some people imagine that life should be stress-free. This is self-indulgent piffle. Without stress, we don’t grow and learn. We remain in a rut, ignorant of the big wide world with all its opportunities. We let our unchallenged prejudices corrupt us. We become like those who (Psalm 17) ‘are inclosed in their own fat, and their mouth speaketh proud things.’ Gospel messages again: let’s take responsibility for ourselves, let’s take stock of where we are, let’s take risks, let’s push at boundaries, let’s put out into the deep, let’s cast our nets on the other side—the side we’ve never tried before.