Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011.11.02 Keeping Madeleine's Commandment

After Madeleine L’Engle adjured me NOT to become a little man after I got ordained, I faced a few hurdles in carrying out her word of wisdom.

The adornment hurdle surmounted, the next hurdle I faced in my obedience efforts was what I call how we do business together?

As a parish priest I thought the way to lead was to meet with parish leaders for conversation, encourage prayer, and come to consensus about action.

Whatever policy and decision we made we all would support and help implement, including fielding the growls and ongoing recalcitrance-for-its-own-sake.

This is a process way of getting things done, and in fact a women’s way. Women tend to talk things over together, sometimes too much. Through the experience of being connected, listening and sharing, a path to successful action is created. One talks, another listens, the first speaks more, a third comments until all of us are on board and everyone knows the experience of the others and of the group.

Sometimes I confess it seems as if we all talk at once, we all listen at once, we all understand at once, and we all come away knowing self, other, Other, task at hand, what to do and what was said. Men think it’s insane, but it’s only different.

This way sounded good to folks but the parish culture was not used to it—a secret I didn’t know. They were used to talking a lot, then having the priest make the decision, reinforce it, take responsibility for it—all alone.

Here’s an example:
1)Complaints about noisy kids in church.
2)I brought it to the vestry and staff leaders
3)WE deliberated and prayed over a couple of months and made a fair policy then wrote it down to be communicated with everyone and appear in the weekly worship bulletin.
4)WE agreed to support the policy as a parish policy for the sake of the whole
5)I fielded a confrontation from an angry parent.
6)THEY, or most of them, expressed sympathy and compassion for the mother/complainant.
7)OUR policy became MY policy.
8)I took the issue back to the leadership group and met reluctance in the name of Christian charity for the parents, not something we had not discussed. I got a partial buy-in only.

So it went. I felt lonely, angry, betrayed, hurt and foolish. My style of leadership had been sabotaged because I DIDN’T TURN INTO A LITTLE MAN, making most decisions autonomously from his own authority, not as dictator but as a buck-stops-here leader.

I should have let them call me MOTHER. I debated preaching naked—pin-up style!

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