Or thus, I'm sure, the poor LongsufferingClockmaker would describe it. He could well have a point...
You see, following on from the preaching experience, I’ve been thinking a bit more about how personality can help or hinder in ministry. I don’t mean the obvious, that you will connect better with some of your congregation than others, simply because you are who you are. It’s rather a question of how far it is appropriate or desirable to use oneself, and the relationship that exists with the congregation, when leading worship. I don’t expect I’m making any sense, so let me do a bit more digging.
I guess this is something that has been at the back of my mind for a while, but it was brought into sharp focus by the experience of leading that London funeral 2 weeks ago. At the “do” afterwards, several people said things like “I could cope with it all as long as you were speaking…you held me together….”
And I’ve been trying to work out quite what is going on here. I worry that somehow by being as “me” as I was, I was somehow getting in between those people and the God who was there pouring love and consolation into the whole situation. I know I can’t lead worship as anyone except myself, and I would be totally unable to manage the kind of remote and impersonal style I remember from some AngloCatholic priests of my childhood (who would also remove their wedding ring in the vestry, as a sign of this negation of self), even if I felt that this was the right thing (which I don’t). I know that loving my congregation and being loved by them is part of our being church together.
But God forbid, please, that anyone should get so embroiled in relating to me that they forget to look any further
Reading that, it sounds incredibly arrogant. How could I ever imagine that they might?
And yet, I do know that when I’m having a totally blissful time celebrating the Eucharist there are some there who are at least partly enjoying me enjoying the experience. It’s another manifestation of the great trap for clergy of being needed and loved and loved and needed. To use our whole selves to attract people to God seems fine (isn't that sometimes known as witnessing??)…to have a life so shaped by Him that it inspires others would be totally wonderful…but how does one ensure that people do make the whole journey? There are too many stories of maiden ladies of bygone years who went to church to worship the vicar, and though I’m not talking about exactly the same thing, there are some disturbing similarities.
So, how do I get myself out of the way,- while being true to the understanding that God has called me to ministry, to be myself for Him?
Or shouldn’t I even expect to?