...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Clergy Wind-Up Toys

Do you remember the era of wind-up toys? Every June, our family would gather at my grandfather's home for his birthday. He would share his collection of wind-up toys for the adults and children to enjoy. I think my Dad, who also collected these things reveled in this time as much as we kids did. As we matured, we made fun of company yes men who went to work with their brief cases and had, we imagined, a huge key in their back that, when wound-up, made them all look and act the same way.

Bureaucracies like church structures live in a bubble and see only a part of the world. For the sake of self-preservation, we block out what we don't want to see, feel, and engage. The effect is to numb any pain with the addictions or the drugs of choice the organization offers: recognition, promotion, rewards, status, reputation, success. The theme becomes clergy heroics 101 or minister show-and-tell.

And so, well intentioned folks say things like "These numbers reflect souls, and that's why numbers are so important." No, numbers are important. Period. The system likes numbers. Period. But number reporting is only one small measure of accountability, if that. Call it what it is: reporting numbers.

More reflective self awareness and honesty would admit that we regularly censor ourselves and others for the sake of the institution. We wonder why young adults are not interested in joining their allegiance to such an order? They see reality- they took the other pill, Neo. They see us very differently than we see ourselves. Maybe they see the great disconnect between what we say is important (people's pain, mission in the world) and what we really value (looking good and organizational maintenance).

A sabbath from year-end reports? A one time Jubilee?? That would be too easy, make far too much sense. It could only be done if you truly value something above those reports. I guess we haven't found what that something is. Or just don't see the disconnect.

Addictive organizations and those that serve them are not generally reflective, do not see the disconnects between corporate speak and what or whom is really valued, thrive on control, and lurch from crisis to crisis. They heroically jump to do good without first applying the check of first doing no harm.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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