Thursday, February 05, 2009
‘If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organise the work: teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean.’
A week or two past, a new visitor commented here. As is only polite, I visited Graham's blog in return and have been hooked ever since. Both funny and thoughtful - a good combination for sure. Anyone who has lived through the frantic media excitement over the recent snow (it's just because we get real winters so rarely here that we all turn into under 10s when snow actually falls) should smile at this.
However, the point of this post is not Graham's excellent blog but the quote he posted today. A few months ago, FabBishop disconcerted me by inviting me to join a group whose focus was something that, tbh, I felt and feel very uncomfortable about - viz Christian giving.
I'm uncomfortable for assorted reasons
1) because I hate asking anyone for money, ever - don't we all?
2) because I know that my own parishes do their best, but rely on the mutual support system of the diocese to cover their parish share
3) because it feels like a truly dreadful time to be considering how to increase giving, when people are poorer than they have been for decades
4) because I, personally, am really really bad at sacrificial giving. I definitely have issues about trusting that there will be enough to go round. I've been well and truly seduced by the culture to feel too often that wants and needs are the same thing, even though I know full well that they are not. And I'm an F, remember, so feelings always have the greatest reality for me.
All in all, only my admiration for FabBishop (and the fact that it's not that easy for very junior clergy to say No to diocesan requests in any case) enabled me to attend my first meeting.
However, the group has headed off in a direction that surprised me, so that its ethos could be summed up in this wonderful quote (originally from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, whose The Little Prince was one of my favourite childhood books, though I didn't begin to understand most of it till I notionally grew up).
No point in boat building if nobody wants to go to sea.
It seems to me that this is the reason that we struggle in the churches...why it feels so much harder to be a priest here in the comfortable UK than it did when I was in South India, for all the notoriously ceaseless work of the clergy there...Because on the whole we are still starting from the wrong place. We are inviting people to visit our churches, to listen to our words, to share our worship, to drink our coffee in pale green cups....When they don't seem excited, we try to spice things up. We offer different liturgies.
We swap pews for seats and seats for pews.
We plan Pancake Parties and messy afternoons.
And all of that can be good. It can even, sometimes, achieve its aim.
But not when it becomes an end in itself, as it all too easily can.
So our work within the group has become focussed on engagement. We are talking not about pounds and pence but about relationships, about connections, about mission. This won't provide a quick fix for all the financial issues of one charity among many in a very cold financial climate, but it might just do something far more exciting, if we can keep calm and retain our focus.
So I'm going to write these words in my very best writing, and post them over my desk. My father came from a long line of boat-builders, but I know that they would all have had too much sense to begin a project without the certainty that someone was intent on taking a voyage.
So my job is less to summon a workforce to sustain the church in all its complexities, and more to unroll charts and see if we can glimpse the wonders of the voyage to come. Now that I could sign up to - an irresistable adventure.