The Dance of the Clergy Conference

Caroline, our Casting the Net Officer, has been asking me to write something reflective about our recent Clergy Conference. Apart from reflecting that the Casting the Net Officer sounds like some kind of lepidopterist ….

Several months on, I am still thinking about Archbishop Rowan Williams’ sermon at the Memorial Service for Sir Paul Reeves, former Governor-General of New Zealand. He quoted from the modern Maori poet, Glenn Colquhoun:

The art of walking upright here,
Is the art of using both feet.
One is for holding on.
One is for letting go.

In that context, he was referring to the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural tapestry of life in New Zealand. It’s a sort of dance, a movement. It involves tension and fluidity. If you stand ‘solid’, you don’t get it. It’s elegant possibility … I have sometimes talked about the relationship which a priest has with the people of the church was being like an elastic rope – a bungee cord, if you like. The pastoral relationships of care, mutual esteem and shared faith are what holds the relationship together. But if the relationships are to be creative and productive, the rope then has to be stretched and stretched almost to breaking point.

Our Clergy Conference with David Runcorn was about ‘Living with Resilience’ – which sounds fairly stretchy to me. At other points, we said rather obliquely that it was about the difference between differentiated and undifferentiated leadership. Better to say that it is about the dance – the dance of clergy ministry in which we are ‘with our people’ and ‘all together in the church’ while at the same time we exercise a ‘parent in God’ authority and prophetically call the church to mission. It’s a dance. If both feet are planted on the floor, nothing happens – indeed clergy can be and are broken because of that inability to move confidently and resiliently. And if they learn to move – to see themselves in relationship with people – part but not totally of .. little bit of priestly separation … – then people find that the dance gives elegance, purpose and beauty to our relationship with God and with one another.

Probably not what Caroline wanted .. but there we are.