Thursday, May 21, 2009

For the other magazine

One of the down sides of this job is that every second month I have to produce not one but two magazine letters...The first (which is monthly) is relatively straightforward, as it's for our regular parish magazine - which goes to church-goers in both parishes, but is unashamedly "in house" in tone and content.Leaving aside the question of whether we should be producing something aimed more at those beyond our walls (of course the answer is yes), that does allow me to be moderately "churchy", or at least not to have to explain what every single festival is before I mention it. The other mag evolved because it was felt that one community very much dominated the parish mag (though it would be very easy to include material from both communities, if people only submitted it)and is described as a "village magazine", majoring on the cricket club fixtures, gardening news etc. I'm invited and expected to write a letter for this too and there are months when this is a real struggle, as I've usually used my light and accessible reflection on current events slot for the other publication. So this week I seem to have spent the best part of 2 days writing magazine letters...this is the second one, with huge thanks to Graham of digging alot for the kick start that I needed.

Dear Friends,
This past week, the third in May, has not been a great time to be a political leader.
In the US, there has been some disappointment and anger at President Obama's perceived back-pedalling while here in the UK the row over MPs expenses threatens to engulf the House of Commons completely. The Speaker resigned yesterday and there is increasing speculation as to whether an early election might be the next big things on the horizon. In any case, we have elections in 2 weeks time, - though everyone seems to find it hard to muster much enthusiasm. Politicians – disappointing people pretty much since the creation of the world!

I’ve been thinking about power and about leadership a lot recently, because at the end of June our churches will welcome a new member of the clergy, Mathew Page, following his ordination as a Deacon. Mathew is very much a local, living with his wife Karen and baby son Isaac in Stonehouse and worshipping in the Stanleys through many years. He also has a very demanding secular job, so will be carrying out much of his ministry as the majority of God’s people do, - living in the real world, the world beyond the church. I’m excited that we’ll have his gifts and insights to draw on in the benefice, and am pleased that our parishes are seen as a good context in which he can learn what it means to be ordained in the Church of God. Because he is above all with us to learn, we’ll have to take care never to view him as a helpful pair of hands, always a temptation when a new curate arrives in any parish.

For his first year with us, as I said, Mathew will be Deacon’s orders, - the primary ordination of all clergy in the Church of England. This is the “foundation stage”, which remains part of your calling, no matter where ministry takes you. Even Archbishops remain also Deacons, - and the heart of the Deacon’s ministry is service, recalling the servant-leadership of Jesus, as he washed the feet of his friends at supper on the night before he died. That’s something radically different from the power-games and jockeying for position that we have come to expect from our government. So, though I’m afraid I’m probably dreaming a hopeless dream, I’d like to leave you with some words by the poet Stewart Henderson, of which an internet friend reminded me recently.

‘I believe leaders should be servants
and servants should be powerless
I believe all leaders should spend
part of their training
playing on merry-go-rounds
and building sandcastles.
I believe the church should be a refuge,
a swing park, an embrace.

Playfulness and service – not bad antidotes to the current wave of cynicism, I’m sure.
With love and blessings

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