I am preaching at my church tomorrow for the last time for a while.
I returned to the parish at the beginning of 2005 and, not long after, became their regular presider/preacher on a fortnightly basis. This continued when a priest was appointed as Priest in Charge about three years ago. I was happy to offer this ministry as my gift to the parish - I have a Monday to Friday job elsewhere so Sunday Services were not a necessary part of the deal.
The gift grew to leadership of the worship team having oversight of the themes for worship through the seasons of the year and regularly providing music once a month - when I was not presiding.
About a year ago the Priest seemed intent on disempowering two Deacons who were members of the congregation. Both were passionately involved in the establishment of a community garden on church property, and each saw this as their gift to the ministry of the parish, offering a place for people from the community to learn to live more sustainably and in more harmony with God's creation. The trump card for the Priest was to invite the denominational structures to consider the land being used to develop this community garden as available for social housing if they needed it. The effect was to say that the Community Garden was now no longer a ministry priority and this had been done without consulting those most closely involved. We were in open conflict with our priest.
By Christmas time the hostility was palpable and steps were taken to mediate a reconciliation. Unfortunately, the Priest managed to portray themselves as a victim rather than accepting that they had perpetrated an abuse of power, and since no-one had done WRONG no-one was in a position to APOLOGISE. An apology was offered in May, nearly six months after the event, but it was not signed and the Priest, while present when the apology was made to at least one of the Deacons, was not in any way engaged in it - they did not apologise for the hurt and abuse they had been the instrument of.
A fake consensus was arrived at but the Deacons did not feel appeased, so I began withdrawing my labour. I reduced my fortnightly presidency to once a month in May. In June I relinquished my leadership of the Worship Team and in September I decided that I would not be available for the Presiding Roster once the current roster expired - November. At no stage has the Priest seriously engaged my in an enquiry about why I am doing this. I had offered explanations that before this I had felt like I had a half-time job over and above my regular job, and that I just felt like a needed a rest for a while, but anyone could see that something was up. If the Priest had asked me what was up I was tempted simply to reply "Go figure!!!"
So, I preach tomorrow for the last time in a while.
The lectionary reading is from Mark 12:38-44 - a great little diatribe against hypocracy, particularly among the scribes and pharisees. Fortunately, rather than being an invitation to take pot shots at various hypocrits we might see around us, I think that Jesus is actually inviting us to point the bull-dust detectors at our own lives, calling us into that level of self-examination that enables us to clearly articulate what we might ask Jesus to make whole in our lives when confronted daily with the question he asked James and John and the son of Timaeus - "What do you want me to do for you?"
Someone I heard of recently has meditated on this question daily for the past 14 years. I think it will take me as long to even begin to let it get through. I certainly have been tantelised by it for the past wo weeks - Go Jesus!!!
ROBERT INCHAUSTI: SUBVERSIVE ORTHODOXY
3 years ago