Frustration

It’s a long time since I’ve hung out here, but I’m back to let off some steam safely and to begin to think through the last four years and how to move forward.   It’s post a Kirk Session meeting in the early hours of the morning, and my head has not yet switched off.

So before the careful laying down of the issues, the state of play so far.   I am in no doubt that this is where I am meant to be.   Every day is exhausting.   There is more to do than one person can possibly do, and in a five minute gap some time I hope to put together a proposal that might actually provide me with the help I desperately need in some form of paid, part-time assistant (lay/ordained).    Doors open regularly to new possibilities, and perhaps my biggest problem is wading through the mire of what I can reasonably do in the time a day offers and what will have to wait.   We have fun, with new opportunities to worship in new ways or different places, with meeting new people, and connecting to new organisations.

In that last sentence though is perhaps my biggest concern – “we”.   “We” sounds like huge numbers of people making a big impact.   In reality it is a very limited group from a large pool of resources.   I’m working on the saving starfish model, that even managing to do one thing is better than nothing.

So here I sit post Kirk Session meeting quite frustrated and thinking through possibilities. There is always a lot on an agenda at a meeting here, and so I want to get through most of it as quickly as possible so that we can all get home to bed at a reasonable time.   On the agenda this evening were two opportunities for elders to leap to the fore and take up the mantel of leading a project.   Both items were short term projects.   One to happen later this year with an already thought out plan and list of people to contact.   The second needing a bit more vision to happen over three years, involving some thoughts on celebrations and events that could place.

Looking for volunteers both events were presented, but there are no volunteers.

A frustrated minister closed the meeting with a reminder that the task of the Kirk Session is not to agree to ideas and leave the work to the Session Clerk and the Minister, but for them to be involved in the shared leadership and serving of Christ in this place.   As always those who heard were the ones who already do help, as they apologised for not being able to offer more time.

So we now have two projects to happen but no-one to take the lead on them.   The first one, I can organise the speakers, venue and advertising myself.   Someone else can worry about funding.   The Kirk Session agreed to underwrite it and if they are not willing to organise finding finance then they will bear the cost.

The second is more difficult and quite important that someone is identified.   My head is busily scurrying across members of the congregation who might be willing and able to lead on event planning and organising, and have some idea of how to identify appropriate funding for each event.   I may have to get the congregation roll out on my day off, and work through the list with LinkedIn on screen and see if I can identify someone who might fit the bill.

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Whirling Gears

The second Kirk Session meeting in these early months of being in a new place and it’s good to know that just as each Kirk Session carries similar characters, a new set of people don’t change the patterns of a minister.

Prior to the meeting, there are the usual routines.   Finding an appropriate reading; considering the prayer – sometimes written in notes, sometimes taking a favoured book for support, sometimes knowing that when it comes to the moment the words will appear; sitting with the agenda and methodically working through what bits of information you need to take with you.   Slowly the sense of unknown grows in the imagination, as the thought of what might be debated floats around.   This sense of fear of the unknown never seems to diminish no matter how well known the elders who will sit before you, because a Kirk Session meeting is always a surprise.

Setting off from the Manse to the Hall, the pile carefully placed upon the floor to go with you is moved to the back seat of the car, and then once at the hall transferred onto the table and carefully laid out so that at the right moment the correct piece of paper or book will come swiftly to hand.   Thank goodness for Session Clerks, who will always have the bit of paper you didn’t think to bring.

It’s probably just as well that no elder can read a minister’s mind during a session, as they might encounter the waves that move from “keep talking” to “why am I talking nonsense” to “I’m sure I said that was last word” to “where did the time go”.

Finally the ordeal is over.   Some nights its worse than expected, other times the sense of heading in a positive direction prevails.   No matter what, at home the head is filled with revisiting bits of the meeting.   Questions are pondered over, silence is examined.   It would be good if the pulling apart of the evening took just a matter of minutes, but sometimes there are little corners that thought they had been missed, that need to be peered into.

Eventually sleep will come.

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Opportunity for more

Over on Minister? Me? Mrs Gerbil has been asking about how Board member’s might feel when a Congregational Board is replaced with Unitary Constitution. I’ve tried very hard to write a comment below her blog and failed miserably, probably through my own incompetence with the new computer. So I thought I would write my thoughts here. Not just for Mrs Gerbil, but as a reminder to myself of why it has been the right choice to make.

The choice for the congregation was not just about reducing the number of meetings, but instead about having the opportunity to engage with the broad range of thoughts and activities that happen in congregational life. A congregational board was actually quite limiting in what members of the congregation and not just elders were allowed to have opinion on. The Board was limited to looking at Fabric and Finance, and with that knowledge we had found that people were put off in being part of the Board as they didn’t have the skills or knowledge to contribute to these.

Those who were involved in setting out what might become our new Kirk Session structure took time to look at other congregations for ideas, and out of those enquiries we recognised that what might be good was to have a structure that allowed congregation members to be part of smaller teams that focussed on specific areas of the Kirk Session’s work. In Unitary constitution, we now have teams representing Fellowship, Parish Mission, Worship, Fabric, Finance, World Issues and Education. Each of the teams is made up of half elders and half congregation members, and when we have a need of a task group we also try to match elders and members.

Rather than removing congregation members from our leadership and ideas forums, we hope that we have instead opened up the possibilities of how people might be involved. Each of the teams appeal to the different gifts that lie within our congregation. Where there are no major changes in Kirk Session thought and planning, teams tend to progress events in between meetings. Where a new idea is put into a public forum or where it might need financial support, it tends to come back to the Kirk Session for full discussion.

Of course not everything we do slots nicely into one team, and at times teams can be working together on ideas. I suppose on such occasion was our “Messy Church” that brought together our Worship and Education Teams, while “Back to Church Sunday” is a collaboration of Worship and Fellowship. This year’s Autumn Evening Talks will see the Education Team work with the World Issues Team as we explore different faiths.

It’s hard work as minister ensuring that all the teams have full representation, although team leaders do offer suggestion as to who might be helpful. However I would say that I think there are now more people involved than the Board and Session ever allowed. It also seems to be more representative of the profile of the congregation, whereas the Kirk Session tends towards the older age group. I find it tough to remember not to go to all the meetings but to trust them with what is to come – I’m working hard on the letting go.

What we have now is by no means perfect, but because we have a framework to begin with, we are not afraid to change and amend as we find what works best for us now.

We appear to have no regrets that we changed, and are happy to evolve as our needs change and grow.

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