Monday Morning – By Rev. Alan Mead
It is Monday morning. Many of us who practice interim ministry may be taking a moment to reflect on the congregation we are currently serving, a pause between the ending of one week and the beginning of another. Is this a time to plan our activity and schedule for the coming week? How will our energy be used? Will we be reactive to whatever surfaced over the weekend? Or is this moment, this pause to be still, a time to allow our own energy to be replenished? May we find moments between each week, moments each day to be still, to build within a space where we can simply be ourselves, and where we may we be at peace. In the midst of activity, demands, stress, may you know the grace and joy of a moment claimed for yourself alone. You are of great value and you bring the gift of yourself, and that is the most important thing to know today.
Self-Differentiated – By Rev. Alan Mead
As one who has been practicing interim ministry for many years I have come to think of myself as developing a healthy sense of self-differentiation. What a surprise, outside of a church setting, in a meeting that I was chairing, when I had just returned from vacation and wasn’t fully prepared, to find myself being reactionary! As a part of me observed the interactions and dynamics I thought, “Wow! This is going badly and I am making it worse.” I took a deep breath and ….
We have probably all experienced some similar setting; people anxious and reactive, looking for answers when there are none that are satisfactory, and almost stumbling over one another to voice frustration and anger. One colleague I know has developed a method and demeanor to “shut it down,” moving conversation forward by not allowing any venting. Others, including myself, allow thoughts and feelings to be expressed, with a ground rule that insists on it reflecting one’s feeling or thought about a situation and not attacking or singling out individuals to blame.
It didn’t help that I hadn’t met with the association manager and didn’t have the facts at my fingertips. It didn’t help that there were 10 times more people present than at a normal monthly Board meeting. It certainly didn’t help that I was feeling just as frustrated as everyone else at the meeting. What did help, as the criticism reverberating through the room began to repeat, was taking a deep breath and …
A Chance Encounter – By Rev. Alan Mead
We were vacationing at an historic hotel in Virginia and, after dinner I was relaxing on one of several white rocking chairs that invited guests to rest and relax as well as signal a welcome to the hotel. It was a warm evening and I was relaxing; not reading, not visiting, simply sitting and letting the evening sounds, occasional voices from the nearby Shakespeare playhouse, an occasional vehicle passing, gentle and distant whispers of conversation as couples walked on the nearby sidewalk, as well as the constant song of crickets that I could only hear when I listened, as the sound seemed to surround and gently fill in the gaps of the more strident sounds produced by people.
As I sat and softly rocked many people walked by, and one man stopped and asked a question. We began to talk and I learned he was visiting from another state and was there for the Music Festival. We talked about that as well as sharing very brief history, the kind of thing often done when one meets a stranger, and then he had to go. As he prepared to leave he mentioned how he enjoyed our brief conversation, and now as we went our different ways, he realized we would probably never see each other again. He said that he was thankful for the few minutes that we shared.
We all have chance encounters in life, some expected, as those of us practicing interim ministry are constantly meeting new people as we travel from one ministry location to another; but often brief, unplanned for encounters with people we don’t know and will never see again. As I reflected on this moment I realized it was an opportunity for grace and blessing. I could easily have stopped the conversation or excused myself to leave; but chose to engage in conversation that in my mind began as intrusion and ended as blessing.
Parking Lot discussions are also valuable – By Rev. Alan Mead
Navigating through any significant change, even ones that a congregation needs, can be a fascinating adventure. I was looking at a photo of a church I served some years ago and as I looked, memories flooded into my mind. One in particular of a gift that became a great blessing after a turbulent year of “parking lot” changes.
This church was old, dating to the 1700’s and still used outhouses as there was no indoor plumbing. They had been years talking about building an addition with bathrooms, a kitchen and a parish hall. They even had architectural drawings and without any decision had several thousand dollars in donations to build it. When I arrived we continued the conversation for two or three years before I applied for and received a significant grant to help us. The stipulation was that we had to take action within one year. The one catch was that the congregation would have to accept some of the financial responsibility and commitment to this large building project.
We had leadership meetings and formulated plans and were in complete agreement, until the next morning after everyone who wasn’t part of the meeting got involved in the “parking lot” discussion. Seven months after receiving the grant we all thought it would be lost because no one, it seemed, could come to an agreement that lasted more than a day. Learning to navigate the “parking lot” conversations, learning how to involve and value everyone, eventually led to a new addition with running water and meeting space and a renewed congregation.
Picking Blueberries – By Rev. Alan Mead
Picking blueberries. Here in southern Virginia the thermometer has been in the mid nineties with high humidity. Of course, that’s when blueberries become ripe and beg to be picked. We drove a short distance to Pungo yesterday and set out with buckets in hand, me with a wide brim hat and long sleeve sun protection shirt, because without a cloud in the sky, the sun was blazing. As I picked I realized that what seems easy becomes harder as one moves deeper into the bush, holding branches aside to reach the larger, riper treasures hidden beyond a casual reach. As I strained to reach those treasures I thought of how all who practice interim ministry learn that when we help a congregation remember and voice what sometimes is hidden is like revealing treasure. And it can be hard work!