Posts Tagged With: Leadership


One of the nights I worked this past week was because of an event held by our local ecumenical  group.  The Westmount Christian Council formed several decades ago when lay people in St Peter’s neighbourhood decided the Churches should cooperate better.  On Sunday evening they hosted a service and fellowship time.  I have find it to be one of the times we get this Church thing right–when we understand that the God we have in common is much greater than the things we disagree over.

I had a great time. It was a beautiful service and a gracious group. We prayed, “Gracious God, so often our churches choose the logic of competition and dispute by desiring to be the best.  We are weary of this race to excel.  Allow us to rest at the well.  Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer.  May your Spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos bring unity from our diversity. Amen”

And I must confess: I noticed the pauses and the glances, the sense of uncertainty, the unfamiliarity that leads to imperfect projection.  It was tempting, in the seconds of noticing to judge, to condemn, to keep myself apart.   To wonder why they didn’t cover that before the service, to judge their lack of practiced communication.  Even knowing how challenging it is to balance all of that, it can be hard to participate and appreciate.

I remember sitting at one of my internship parishes, two seminarians and a 25 year priest talking about how ordination and the call to lead worship changes our participation.  The mental gymnastics leading worship asks for are convoluted. Being aware of what we are doing, how people are or aren’t participating, knowing what comes next and seeing of the leaders for that are present, having the current and future page number and place and words, listening for my own voice to check the microphone and my own projection, remaining centred in the prayer and worship of God, trying to hear the still small voice these acts are trying to amplify.  It’s exhausting and there is a gift in being the one who sits in the pew, who is called first to praying.  Even still it takes a few minutes for my to let go of how I would to things so that I can participate fully in the now and the doing of worship I am not leading.  

After the service, while we were enjoying tea and snacks, someone commented on the presence the pastors had at the front while we were offering the sending blessing.  I knew what was meant.  It’s the little things.  Knowing how to project, speaking at the right pace, trusting that we will catch each other’s pauses and cues.  And it was hard to hear.  While I appreciate the generosity of the Council sharing the leadership with us ordained types, I’m so in awe of the witness they offer to us. And I know that what was commented on is in many ways a skill.

I know because I spent years learning these skills.  Because in High School I was the definition of painfully shy: soft and rarely spoken, public speaking turned me into a blushing shaking mess. Because this fear, this inability, my own uncertainty and nerves, was one of my top reasons God could not be asking me to seek ordination.  

I listen and watch my colleagues whose backgrounds involved more public speaking or performance than reading history books and I still marvel at their presence, their ability to hold a moment, to invite others into their moment.

And I remember the Sundays when the awkward moments stretch as we all wonder who is suppose to read, the first Sunday in Lent when I picked a hymn with 41 Alleluias (that was this yearūüėē), the times I misspeak, the Sundays when I am disappointed in my sermon.

Sitting there on Sunday night, was a beautiful reminder that God loves an amateur.  Because none of us manage the worship of God perfectly.  We are standing in front of the altar of God doing mental gymnastics, desperately hoping someone will catch our cues, praying we don’t screw it up and knowing we do.

All that we do, hopefully in Church, ideally in our lives, is done for the love of God.  And we are all amateurs at it.  Jesus is the one human who got it right, and he was God-with-us.  For the rest of us, we are amateurs struggling to love God as we are loved.  

Thankfully God loves an amateur.


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Millennials: The End isn’t Coming (short of Jesus’s return)

First, the Church isn’t about to end, be it with a whimper or a bang. We are the inheritors of a tradition that has survived the Ascension of Jesus, outward persecutions, inward persecutions (those heresy debates with permanent conclusions), the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and more. All of this changed the Church. The 21st century and the digital swell will be no different because God is more faithful and creative than we can imagine.

Second (and like unto the first) Millennials aren’t going to manage what the Reformation could not do. The Church will survive us, in fact we could be good for one another.

We creatures called Millennials are just starting to come into our own. The oldest of us have, by most dating, just turned 30. We are at the point where we have been at the tables long enough to know we should be listened to; where we either no longer are alone or know we should no longer be alone; where we can begin to speak about who and how we tend to be.

Not everyone is thrilled by this, of course. We are strange and new and, even if we don’t want to do things in a new way (often true), we do want to do things in old ways that work for us.
We still have much to learn. I know this; I believe that most of us know this. But there are also things that we have to share.

We firmly believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (We tend tone quite orthodox.)
By and large we aren’t worried about the Church dying out because we don’t plan to go anywhere.
We know that the Church isn’t perfect. For many of us that is why we stay.
We know that the Church can be better than we currently are.
We aren’t asking for perfection.
(Also many of us can make the internet do all sorts of things. Not all of us and not every non-Millennial type needs this, but as the melts in your mouth not in your hand candy coating.)

We are not the end of the Church. We are not the future of the Church. We, I, desperately want to be a part of the Church. Because we love this Church. Because we have found Jesus in the liturgy, in and despite our craziness, and we want others to have that same experience.

That is what makes me sad when witness again my generation being ignored.

I say this in part because I do worry about what decisions would be made without the voices of my age-peers spoken and received. (I worry when other groups are not present.)

I say this because I am not interested in creating the Church I might have better liked when I was 14. I am far more interested in reforming the Church today’s 14 year olds might need us to be.

I say this because the more fully my age-peers are in and formed by the Church, the better we the Church will be in the years to come. We are here now, we are capable; being involved, being encouraged and allowed to exercise our gifts in this Church ought only to improve both of us. Surely we can all agree that this mutual investment would be mutually good.

I say this because it is my sincere prayer that I will be able to graciously hand over authority as I can and need to. Set the example of sharing and passing on authority and join me in hoping that we as a Church only get better at this.

We want to be here now. We want to be fully welcomed at all levels of the Church. We want to create The Episcopal Church that people will, if not flock to, be drawn to. Together there is a long way for us all to go.

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What I Wish #ExCoun Said

If you are an Episcopalian and follow Churchwide news, then you have heard that the budget (link) has a few problems–program areas getting slashed, numbers not adding up, canonical mandates not being followed. These have been well discussed at length by others (quotes and more links here, here, here, and here) , and then there’s this statement from some of the people who helped put the budget out (link).

This next part will be heavy in Episcopalese for help translating see this page.

The Budget Process

ExCoun has to submit a budget to GC.¬†To do that, ExCoun sends PB&F a “General Church Program and a detailed budget for the year following the next GC.” (Everything in quotes is language from the Canons.)¬†Four months before GC, ExCoun has to send the proposed budget and planned asking out to various people–Bishops and Provincial Presidents. This information must also be submitted to GC.
Before the third day prior to adjornment, PB&F will report to a Joint Session of GC on the proposed Budget.
The budget we have before us and which we have been reacting to, is the budget ExCoun is canonically required to disperse 4 months before GC.

Executive Council met this past week in Salt Lake City and, rightfully, the budget was on the list of things they discussed. At the end of the meeting they released this statement and the attached memo which was sent to PB&F (link).

First, because I notice these things, the Easter greeting goes ‚ÄúAlleluia! Christ is Risen.‚ÄĚ “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!‚ÄĚ But that is the very definition of adiaphora.

More importantly, ‚Äúextreme disappointment‚ÄĚ and a memo to PB&F do not begin to address the problems of the proposed budget.

Let me be clear. I think that the proposed budget has multiple problems. First is, of course, the numbers. Second is the system that created this budget. Third is what the proposed budget has created.

Right now, all I want to do is talk about the third problem. The first two problems are significant and need to be addressed, but I do not believe that this is possible until we address the third problem.

Succinctly, I believe that the proposed budget created fear, hurt, and a sense of betrayal. Fear that The Episcopal Church may collapse. Hurt that our Church, as described in the proposed budget and the system which created it, is so out of touch with us. Betrayal about the lack of pastoral or clear leadership since the budget came out.  All of which is being expressed as anger.

This Church, my Church, which I love, for which I work, which I joyfully represent, which has ordained me, did not seem to understand that this undercuts things that are essential to me having stayed in the Church.  And then as people looked closer, things made less sense (The Rev Susan Snook (link) has some excellent posts about this).  How can my elected leaders not understand my hopes, dreams, and goals for the growth and flourishing of this Church I love were eliminated in the proposed budget?  And all of this during an already shaky time for all established Churches.

So where do we go from here?

I have been in enough analogous situations to know that no one person is to blame, and I’m not looking to assign blame. I want someone to assume responsibility.¬†I have been a leader long enough to know that sometimes the leader’s job is to be the one who says, ‚ÄúI’m sorry.‚ÄĚ

So here is what I wish Executive Council had said. Not just to each other. Not just to PB&F. To me. To those of us who are deputies to General Convention. To those of us who care about The Episcopal Church and our future.

We know that the proposed budget was wildly inaccurate. We have heard the anxiety and concern these inaccuracies caused across the Church. This outpouring of concern is a result of the love and dedication people have to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church. We are invested in and working towards (and more detail here would be nice) passing an accurate, balanced budget at General Convetion. We apologize for the anxiety and hurt that the proposed budget caused. The Executive Council is committed to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church.

Right now, I have trouble, in good conscience, welcoming people into the Church which proposed this budget. A Church with leadership behaving this way. In these past few months my experience has not been one of welcoming or leadership. I am concerned about being forgotten and abandoned.

Let me be clear, I am an Episcopalian. I’d like to be more joyful about that today. I’d like to be so excited about how our budget describes what we are about in our mission and ministry that I cannot wait to tell others. I prayerfully look forward to that day.

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