Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Cross Stitch Church - the needle

as i sit at the keyboard and write this my wonderful wife is sewing my coat pocket back on, using needle, thread but no gauze. The sewing is more out of necessity than creative design and very much appreciated i have to add. It is a mark of my complete incompetence that i am unable to repair my own coat! Sadly, i expect that this bit will get more comments than anything else i write below!

I have thought about the gauze, the pattern and thread, all in a very pretentious way and so now i continue the theme by thinking about the needle. In my metaphor of a cross stitched church, the needle stands for church leaders, those wonderful, dedicated, inspired, anointed breed of which i am one (please note the irony).

In my own denomination we have been somewhat wary of leadership i think. In an effort to avoid personality-focused ministries and authoritarian and domineering leadership styles we find ourselves lacking in leadership. This is both at the national level and the local. This is not to denigrate the work of my own District Chair who currently occupied the throne of 'President of the Conference. He has (and I'm sure will) do as good a job as any in his Presidential year. The problem is that it is a merely representative and even 'PR' role rather than any that exercises leadership and direction.

In the local church the same is true. The local minister has no more say than anyone else about church mission and policy because legally he or she has one vote along with others at church meetings. This often (not always) leads to a lack of leadership 'on the ground' within the local church. Something we miss to our cost as a denomination.

And then there are the ministers themselves. So many of my colleagues, it seems, are reticent to see themselves as leaders. Yes presbyters, are to be pastors and teachers, but they must be leaders also. It is part of the authentic role of presbyteros, elder - to watch over those in their care in love, but also to lead them as a shepherd leads their flock.

In the metaphor of the church as a piece of cross-stitch - where the gauze is the world, the pattern and thread the church, the needles that display the pattern are leaders. Leaders are necessary, leaders are important, and we need to rediscover the position and place of leaders within the church. It is through authentic leadership, modelled on Jesus' leadership that the pattern of the church gets threaded. Without leadership the thread is not completed, it is haphazard, random, at sometimes beautiful, but mostly chaotic. The pattern of the church is woven by the artist, using leaders to shape the edges and colours etc. Lets not forget that in the sewing analogy it is actually the needle that pulls the thread. The needle leads the thread through the holes, through the material, back over itself etc to complete the destined path for the thread. Why is it we are so afraid to let leaders lead? Why are we so afraid in Methodism to be led?

I believe in the church and i believe in church leaders who are humbly submitted to God but confident in their God-given mandate to be apostolic and lead with due diligence. I believe in needles that pull the thread, but always surrendered to the hand of the great artist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, Gareth! I have been meaning to write a post myself on the ambiguous role of a minister in the Methodist Church. One of the things that I would add is that we actually have less influence on the mission of the church because we aren't there every week. A former minister in my circuit talked about a conversation at his church. The minister wanted to place the chairs in a circle. The response came back: we'll do it when you're here.

One other thing: I was reading CPD (NOT for fun - I had a couple of upcoming church council meetings that I knew would would be difficult and I need to brush up!) and technically a minister can have up to two votes. In the case of a tie, the chair breaks it regardless of whether or not the chair has previously voted. OK, it's not much I know! But, I am just waiting for the day when I can pull that out!