Program and process, or you can’t get there from here

Just got home from spending most of today at the fall leadership retreat at church, part of my job as music committee chair. I am convening my committee next week; we would normally have started our work already, but I spent the whole summer chairing the search committee to fill the two unexpected staff vacancies in my program, and now that’s done and it’s time to plow into this year’s work. I’m ready for summer vacation to start, and it’s early October. What’s wrong with this picture?

Part of what I am taking forward from this retreat is some process and “meta” stuff, polishing things I have worked on during my tenure as chair and continuing our program transition. I’ve been chair for a bit over three years – this will be my fourth year chairing this committee – and I said today I’m not doing more than five, so we need to start planning the lay leadership transition. I need this to become somebody else’s job, not because I don’t enjoy making it happen, but because I’ve learned how this bit works and I need to get some experience in other areas of church work and governance. I will need that later.

There is also the transition work of supporting our new (very part-time) music director and accompanist as they settle into their jobs and start bringing their own visions to the process. And then there is the ongoing work of making sure that the music program does not become its own little box that’s poorly connected to the rest of the church – it is easy for that to happen, because this committee tends naturally to attract people who are involved in the music program, and people tend to stay on this particular committee longer than other committees, and without intentional reaching out to the other parts of the church we tend to be, well, preaching to the choir in a very literal way. The last couple of years we’ve built some bridges with the Religious Exploration team (who also have a new staff person this year, so there’s more work to be done) and the last piece of this puzzle is re-integrating with the worship committee, who have been focused on keeping their thing going through their recent transitions. (This congregation settled a new minister three years ago; I think at this point we have had an complete cycle of all staff and ministerial positions in the last seven years. And renovated three buildings while we were at it, because why not?)

Music isn’t my calling, but it is the well I return to when I need to heal my soul; hence, the need for an orderly and planned leadership transition so that this thing we’ve built will still be there when I come back for it. It was that need, combined with my incorrigible urge to run towards emergencies and jump in and fix them, that got me chairing the search committee (and running the informal summer music program) this summer, when I would probably have been better served by hiding out in a cave for awhile and sorting myself out. I have a wistful envy for the cultures that encourage bunking off to a monastery for a few weeks or months when one has the need to engage in deep reflection. We are not good at that in western culture – we are so much about the broad and the fast and the sparkling multitudes, and so little about the deep and the still and the solitary dark. I guess that one can draw water from either a river or a well, but sometimes, sometimes…

The upshot of all this is that I very conveniently had my summer theological crisis while I was trying to figure out how to chair a search committee and the minister had just left on vacation. I take this as evidence that the Author of Creation has a really bent sense of humor, and I try to appreciate that if nothing else, I can at least try to be a good story.

It’s a story without too much circulation yet; I’ve spoken to my minister and my spouse, and howled anonymously in the wilderness of the internet, but I’m not “out” to the people I know at church or in the rest of my life. Part of getting there is getting myself comfortable enough in who I am becoming that I can deal with the reactions. I know from past experience in other contexts that one of the quickest ways to get people to give me alarmed looks and back away slowly (or glance sidelong and change the subject) is to start talking theology and mysticism. At the same time, I’m keenly aware both of my own need for community and also of the reality that there are only so many hours in a minister’s work week — while I might be an interesting project, I do have to share her time with the other two-hundred members of the congregation as well as the wider community (marriage equality’s on the ballot again this year, and we are actively involved in that, of course.) So in trying to be fair to everyone else without being unfair to myself, I’ve sought community on the internet, where if people are looking at me funny, I can’t see them, and nobody is making them look if they don’t want to.

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3 Responses to Program and process, or you can’t get there from here

  1. cavyherd says:

    “I can at least try to be a good story.”

    Heh. I think I’m going to crib this for my current round of Life Challenges. If one is going to blunder around, walking into blank walls, one can at least make an effort to be entertaining at it.

    • C. says:

      I am a big believer in storytelling; hence, my tendency to personify the Great Mystery as the Author of Creation. Someone’s writing this story… and I think it might be fanfic, because that would explain a lot.

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