Two conversations I have had with clergy recently led me to ponder some of the undercurrents of doing ministry during this pandemic and the upheaval and uncertainty we are now swimming in. I was reminded of how important it can be to show up for each other.
At the conclusion of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything, she asks a friend what she should ask a world leader she would be meeting. The friend said, “Ask him: History knocked on your door; did you answer?” Klein concludes, “That’s a good question for all of us.”
In this uncertain time, in whatever capacity we serve as religious leaders, we can hear history’s “knocks” in the feelings of uncertainty, despair, and overwhelm we experience in the institutions we serve.
Amid the conflicts and tensions that arise in congregations, we have more than enough opportunities to act on impulse. Too often, especially when we are upset, we lock into a reactive tug-of-war: “Yes, you did!” “No, I didn’t!” Before long, we’ve said something that we wish we hadn’t. Escalation seems inevitable, but instead of getting into a contest, we can simply—in the words of recent meme—“Keep Calm and Drop the Rope.”
In the third season of the Netflix series The Crown, Prince Philip meets with clergy attending a retreat at a newly-established “center of recovery and renewal” on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Dean Robin Woods is facilitating the retreat; I’m sure he expects the prince to give a word of welcome and encouragement. Maybe he hopes participants will be pleased by the mere presence of a prince.
At moments of re-centering, we can follow a renewed sense of calling.
Can we find ways to call ourselves back to constructive ways of managing our differences?
Imagine someone pointing an accusing finger at you. Perhaps that person is complaining about what is happening in the congregation that you lead. In your imagination, trace the tip of that accusing finger back along the person’s arm until you reach the torso. You will be led right to their heart! Ask, “What does this …