Monday, March 30, 2015


   A Uniting Church Closure of Ministry Service has a number of elements that seek to describe well the call that began a ministry in a particular place, the things hoped for and the symbols of what it might all be about. There are ways of articulating the early hopes and something of what has been achieved and a genuine sense of trying to name something of the journey. Then comes a 'handing back of those symbolic things, a letting go' of the responsibilities, words of confession seeking forgiveness and restored relationship are offered and invite reciprocation. Most often if kept simple, but worked on carefully, these words can do what they promise, which is remarkable really.
   It's no so much about the exact words because, believe me, it can still be verbose, empty or manipulative if those choices are made. I'm talking about the flow of what's attempted...
   I guess one reflection I had today was a wish that we didn't just have such clarity at the beginning and the end but also along the way. That's unfair, sometimes we do. If only people could regularly recall what they had promised and what they had asked... to be challenged, disturbed, called into mission. There are permissions given and hopes articulated. The movement of the service offers the opportunity to reflect on so many things from so many different standpoints.
   In my experience there's a commitment to straight talking and and an attempt to reflect not just the highlights and affirm the achievements but to name where things are at. There are moments that get close to this and sometimes moments that fall short. Sometimes I think the words that really ought to be said are just right there and aren't said... I can see an honest desire for 'space to be left' for people to have their own experience. Not everyone has enjoyed a positive relationship and for some it's been the most empowering few years for their own participation in the life of the church... how do words make room for everyone...
   A few pious words, reluctance to listen and a lack of willingness to be vulnerable 'stick out like a sore thumb.' I agree with the observation that "we ask a lot of our Ministers" in their participation and contribution to a Closure [though the planning is always a collaboration]. In the end my reflections about today are really my reflections about maybe 4 or 5 different such occasions. The contrasts are still on my mind tonight. The words and flow of what was being attempted worked and the leadership was considered and important. I will say that the preaching today was inspired, important and allowed 'the word' to be heard from it's time and place, it's context then and it's context now!! The Palm Sunday procession was a ridiculous protest and a choreographed challenge to power. It enacted a different set of values and showed the hard choices someone makes who offers leadership. It wasn't an easy thing to do.
   Anyhow, if I wrote this down tomorrow I might write something completely different. I'm not asking anyone to do or be anything, except maybe that I would remember my experience and my reflections for the future!! Of the four options I was today both sad and glad!!

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