I've been away being trained for two days this week. This time it was course entitled "Leadership development in the community", offered by a consultancy firm which does alot of work for the diocese.
Given my long term allergy to the word "leader" (in my mind, leader = either Adolf Hitler or a guy with plastic smile and a flip-chart) you'll imagine that I approached the course with a fair degree of suspicion, though I was looking forward to spending time with colleagues. Missing WonderfulVicar remains a pretty constant thread in my daily experience here. Though my Associate is an altogether Good Thing, he's also undeniably busy, and often absent with his secular job, so there just isn't the same possibility of praying together and reflecting on the life of our churches. Our meetings need to be very task oriented because there's much to be done...(a situation which, in fact, the leadership course had much to say about.)
ANYWAY on Monday evening the timetable arrived and my heart sank.
Sessions started at 9.00 the following morning, and continued pretty much without letup, apart from meals and coffee breaks, till 8.30 the following evening...I'd returned home exhausted from a course earlier this month, which was far more gentle in its approach, so this made me very nervous - and things weren't helped by a pancake-flat tyre as we headed into Cheltenham on Tuesday morning. Still, we got there without too much delay (the RAC really are worth the membership fee in my experience), were presented with our shiney new workbooks, and the first session began. Overall, format and presentation were well outside my comfort zone, but some undeniably helpful things emerged to take away with me including
- the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy (of course I'm always late, because knowing that I am always late I don't leave time for any other possibility...or equally, I expected to hate the style of the course, so hate it I did! )
-the value of praise grounded in reality (not just "you're such a star J" but "Because you always turn up to set up the church before a funeral and ensure that the congregation has everything they need, I'm able to concentrate on the bereaved family. That makes a huge difference to how we all feel..")
-the difference between management and leadership...the one heavily focussed on doing, the other more often on being the inspiration that draws people forward
There was lots about listening, lots about coaching, and we have been placed in "action learning sets" to enable us to coach one another through specific issues in the months ahead.Using the method in a small group on Tuesday evening was most helpful...I actually know what to do in one situation that had been bothering me, which is pretty much the point of the exercise.
I can't say that I enjoyed it all, though there were some not-so-silly silly games that reduced me to helpless hysteria along the way (fed into the timetable just when they were most needed...I certainly can't fault the planning of the whole)
I can, though, see the value of the mind-set we were encouraged to embrace. I'm just not sure I can work out how to make it a reality.
We did some work on learning styles, which confirmed that I am indeed an activist, prone to get myself involved in far too many aspects of the day to day life of my parishes...but as things are here and now, I'm unable to see quite who will provide the energy and vision to make things happen if I don't. The prospect of balancing all my doing with a hefty dose of being is immensely attractive, but I'm brought back to the question beloved of a former Parish Development Officer of the diocese "Yes , but how?"
In all fairness to the course tutors, we were given more than one exercise to help us address this question. One with which I struggled particularly, as a non-drawer of repute, was the assignment to consider my vision for the church, what I would have to commit to in order to achieve it, and how we would get there.
That sounds OK till you hear that we were told to present this graphically.
I cannot draw in any recognisable way at all, so for a while it seemed highly probable that my vision would be constrained by the limited range of things I can make recognisable...Hard to work out quite how a horse's head, a hedgehog and a cello might feature - but those are pretty much the limit of my artistic ability.
Eventually (we only had 20 mins) I decided what my vision was.
The two disconnected churches, on the hill and in the valley, were joined by a line of people, each feeding and befriending his neighbour.Each person had two foci...the bread and wine of communion, held in in the middle of the pictre as a reminder that the Body of Christ is found not in the church alone but in his world, and the church buildings themselves. Arrows pointed in towards the Sacrament and out to the world...the vision was of a constant flow, so that those who had been fed would reach out to feed others.
We were asked what we'd do to achieve our vision.
Having thought long and hard, the best answer I could come up with was
"I'd basically keep on presiding at the Eucharist"
At which point I had a T.S. Eliot moment
"we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started"
Eucharist? That I can do.