Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 33
17 November, 2013
Last Saturday a number of us gathered at the Community of the Holy Name (CHN) in Cheltenham, for a Parish Quiet Day, led by Bp Graeme and myself. It was a refreshing and revitalising day of prayer and reflection, focused around Bp Stephen Cottrell's book Hit the Ground Kneeling: Seeing Leadership Differently. We opened the day with a reflection on an Old Testament passage that is cited in the book: the Parable of the Trees. It is a surprisingly contemporary tale that challenges the idea of "leadership" as the being about strength and power.
The trees once went out to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, "Reign over us." The olive tree answered them, "Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honoured, and go to sway over the trees?" Then the trees said to the fig tree, "You come and reign over us." But the fig tree answered them, "Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?" Then the trees said to the vine, "You come and reign over us." But the vine said to them, "Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?" So all the trees said to the bramble, "You come and reign over us." And the bramble said to the trees, "If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon." (Judges 9:8-15)
The opening chapter of Bp Cotterell's book is entitled: "Jumping off the Bandwagon." In our modern world of instant communication and ever increasing expectations, it is an invitation to those in leadership (in the widest sense of that word) to slow down, to take time to pray, to give space to listen to God and others. Cotterell writes (p. 7):
What is the key skill needed for the sort of leadership we are exploring in this book? I think it is listening. More than anything else the wise leader, the leader who values the contributions of others and is prepared to let things happen at the right pace, is someone who dares to listen. This is the reason for stopping. We need to take stock. We need to weigh the options. We need to heed advice. We need to understand complexity. Only good listening can achieve this. And good listening takes time.
As we prepare to discuss the question of ordained women's ministry at St Peter's at this year's AGM, it is advice we all need to heed.
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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