Positional Power

Below is a reflection from earlier in the year.  For those not familiar with  “Episcopalese,” A Rector is the senior priest who bears the legal responsibility for leadership of a parish church.  There is a kind of positional power,  subtle but real.

February 7, 2016

There is something about being Rector that is unique.  It is not so much that a “buck” stops here (though it does).  There is a kind of mystique (even now, in this egalitarian age) clinging to the office.

All clergy, formed by the wisdom of the past eight hundred years, unconsciously understand themselves to be “professional Christians.”  This is largely, so the laity need not be bothered with the need practice ministry.  That is over now, but I get ahead of myself.

Jesus Enthroned in Judgment – John DeRosen on tower wall of Saint John’s Memphis, Tennessee

In 2006, there were mighty few young adults at Saint John’s.   When the few we had came back from college, I was determined not to lose them.  What to do?  Realizing those in the last decade of adolescent (ends at 30), are underserved, I decided to lead a Bible Study on Tuesday nights designed for them.   That the rector would do this was fascinating to them.  The wife of one of ours, from a larger church than Saint John’s, were getting acquainted and I remarked that we had fewer resources than the church where she was reared. “Yes, she said, “but, the senior minister is not in my living room tonight, either.”

Recently, the youth director resigned.  Our youth work is in disarray.  As an aside, I find qualified youth directors the most difficult staff position to fill.   Wanting clarity on their needs, I appointed myself “interim,” teach Youth Sunday School and meeting with them on Wednesday nights for conversation.

508 the gospel (2)

Crucifer and torches escort the deacon, carrying the Book of Gospels, from proclaiming the Gospel.

 

A couple of weeks after I began, a senior vested as crucifier*, asked, “You are teaching high school Sunday school?”  “Yes,” to his immediate response, “I’m coming!”  He hasn’t been to Sunday school in years.  In addition, he and others began to gather up others as I asked the seniors to help get the youth ox out of the ditch before departing to college in August.   I won’t say that he wouldn’t have attended had one of my clergy colleagues taught, but it wouldn’t be quite the same either.  Once these same seniors are in school,   I plan on visiting them in their new world and take them to dinner.  That tends to bear fruit as well.

Never underestimate the power of doing the unexpected.  Rectors have quite a lot “symbolic” power.  Use it sparingly, but use it.

JWS+

*One that carries the cross at the head of a procession into/out of the church.

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