Thursday, 26 September 2013

Liberation in Simple Things

Everyone faces complicated decisions. Most people - perhaps because they live lives trickier than mine - no doubt make difficult decisions more often than me. In this brief blog post - my first for ages! - I thought I'd reflect on a tricky decision I've recently made.

As a result of changes in personnel in Manchester Diocese a casual clergy vacancy for General Synod has arisen. I've been flattered that a number of colleagues have encouraged me to stand and, truth is, I spent a long period thinking I would put my name into the hat, even before I received that encouragement. It hardly needs me to point out that the C of E is poised at another delicate and potentially decisive point in its complex history. General Synod has an important job of work to do regarding women as bishops. Furthermore, ongoing debates about matters of gender, sexual and wider social justice - matters close to my heart - are going to be crucial in forthcoming sessions. I'd be lying if I didn't think I had something to offer in these areas. Maybe I'm deceiving myself but I also thought I might stand a realistic chance of being elected.

Yet I've decided not to stand. And that decision feels - in the face of my ego and vanity - right and good. My ego says that I could make a valuable offering and perhaps offer an articulate - even a distinctive - voice, but that's not been enough to convince me to throw my hat in the ring. I know that standing would have been very far from guaranteeing election, but I also thought, 'Oh my, what would you do, if you did get elected?'

In recent months, I've been trying to be honest with myself and - if I can dare a bit of piety - honest with God about energy and focus. I've spend the past few months trying to be clear minded and realistic about my energy levels and capacities. It's been a sometimes challenging process of stripping back some things - some of which are precious to me - and refocusing on others. I suspect that - in the midst of the frustration and sometimes boredom of General Synod - if I had been elected I might have had a lot of fun, challenge and interest. But, because I would have wanted to do the job well, I would also have taken it very seriously. And that would have knackered me out again. It seems to me that ministry - whether understood as parish ministry or more broadly as being a creative priest in the world - relies on space and play and wonder. And I reckon that if I had stood and been elected, I'd have been sucked back into ridiculous overwork again. General Synod might not have been too much to handle on its own, but when wrapped up with a very full life, I think it would been too much.

So, maybe I will consider standing in the future. There are times and seasons for things, after all. I've been surprised by how much I've 'angsted' over whether to stand or not. But hard as it is to say no to things, I am slowly learning to let there be room for more important stuff than busyness.