the church organization man

I am not doing a good job at finishing books at the moment. The problem maybe starts in picking books from the beginning that are just going to be hard going. So I’ve been wading through the first few chapters of a book called ‘The Organization Man‘ by William H. Whyte.

I am drawn to this book because I guess that I see something of ‘the organization’ in church and wonder if it says anything interesting. (I’m probably more drawn to it because it’s an old Penguin book that I bought in Galway last summer and I’m trying to read the books I’ve bought. I hate the thought that I spent 2 euro on nothing and that means that I’ll try reading books that are a bit boring.)

I struggle a lot to feel at home in the Presbyterian church (or maybe any church) as there is something that doesn’t seem to want to allow ‘me’ in. I don’t know how to describe things but I’ll try. It’s like you have to be homogenized to truly fit in or accept that you will have to suck it up to get along with things being the way they are or pretend that things are great even when they’re maybe not deep inside. This is something I wrestle with constantly as I can’t see how it will ever be resolved.
How do you remain yourself in an organization that you don’t feel particularly comfortable in?
Do you just have to accept it and keep trucking on?

To pick an example some people in church think you should get involved with worship because you play the guitar.
The minister might be completely determined that church worship will be more dynamic with two acoustic guitars compared to one because in his head two guitars equals more of a team, more fellowship in worship and better worship. The church is being a more dynamic organization.
This is the over riding principle in his head. More involvement and integration means better music.

He will not listen to the person who actually plays the acoustic guitar saying things like
‘I can’t hear my guitar’ or ‘You don’t need two acoustic guitars, it doesn’t actually help the sound of the music’ or even the plain ‘I don’t feel called to’ or any other legitimate reasons. It’s like all that hard earned knowledge about the guitar that you the individual has gained over the years become redundant in the church because bigger issues are at play. Taking part or being seen to be taking part is far more important than how things actually sound. You end up bringing your guitar along and playing even though you can’t hear your own guitar. You think it’s ridiculous that you can’t hear your own guitar but somewhere you are fighting that because somehow it will be for the good of church community by keeping the minister happy. If you can’t hear your guitar how is anyone else going to? It doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about that sort of thing many times before. But it’s a constant struggle. And it seems to be cranked up more at the moment as ministers seem to be going after people not being committed enough to church. It’s like someone has worked out that we have a very selfish culture and that the church should counter act that by not being selfish and doing things we don’t feel like doing.

Which of course we should and do have to do.
But I think the individual and his view of things falls through the cracks so often. The organization is constantly deemed more important than the individual. Elders are made to do things that they don’t want to do because the minister is convinced that it’s best for the church if they do the thing he wants done.

It’s also a struggle from a creative point of view.

Whyte talks about this in the book and how there is a struggle between coming up with ideas, thinking outside the box, going against the grain etc and administrators who want order, consensus and goals.

We’re famous in the Presbyterian church for having committees and sub committees, committees on committees. liking order and traditions.

On the other hand things like messy intuition, aimless thoughts or questions that wander of course aren’t appreciated or valued because committees focus on agreement and order. These things inhibit creativity and make it hard for people who have been made that way.

The way the PCI is set up it great in many ways but I don’t think it lends itself to being creative and that make it’s people like me wary of it. Will I have to strip away those bits of me to fit into this organization? But I don’t want to to that so what do we do?

I guess that I was thinking about this sort of stuff after seeing pictures of the Pope resigning this week.

Forgive me if this now swings into an ungraceful rant about the Vatican.

Something about the Pope and all the cardinals, bishops and the church governance makes me feel so uncomfortable and frustrated.
I don’t know why it freaks me out so much, or how to talk about it without sounding like a bigot. It makes me angry.

The problem I have with the position of Pope is that he is my brother yet he is a brother that I can’t challenge. He is a brother that has security guards and goes around in it strange clothes and robes that I am supposed to respect and show great reverence for as he is the head of the Roman Catholic church. I can’t say things about him as I might offend friends and their religion. Yet their religion is also my religion. So that is the tension. I can’t have communion in their church even though it’s not their church, I’m as important a member as anyone in the Vatican.

It makes me frustrated. I can’t relate to their way of church governance. Yet it’s also somehow related to me.

So I’m not sure what I’m talking about.
Don’t take this one as a reasoned and sensible post. It’s a rant about the Pope and I’m wrestling with stuff at the moment. But there is something about it all the pushes all my buttons.


cranky at the church

I know that I am often cranky at ‘the church’.

My local church wherever they have been or are, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the local church, the world wide church. I’m a very ecumenical man in my crankiness.

This crankiness seems to be in the family genes a bit from conversations I’ve had with family members, this frustration with the way things are and have been. Some of the crankiness is perhaps legitimate.

I know that holding on to anger is not a good place to be, that being cynical and frustrated with church is not a good place to be, but it’s hard to move on from it sometimes.
There are probably lots of different reasons for the crankiness levels and all those reasons are playing off each other at different times but I reckon the main problem is that I take out my frustrations, my disappointments and anger with God in my own personal life out on the church. When I say personal life I also mean things like ‘Why hasn’t this worked out, I’ve tried so hard?’ or ‘Why does this keep on happening to this person?’ or ‘How could you allow this genocide to happen?

I can’t see God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit but if the church is somehow ‘the body of Christ’ something which I can see that with my own two eyes, and hear with my ears and experience in my ordinary week then maybe its not surprising that my complaints and frustrations with God are projected on to the next best thing, the church.

Perhaps specifically this might lead to extreme grumpiness with a minister, a priest or pastor because we assume that they’re the professional God people and if anyone should know what God is up to it should be them.

Everybody who knows me knows that I’ve a bit of miserable sod the past few years.
I’ve wanted things to be a bit easier than they’ve been,
to not feel like I’ve been in exile or what have you,
but things have just clunked along with feet of lead, or feet of clay, perhaps one foot lead, the other clay.
God has seemed silent or a figment of my imagination, a fairy tale sometimes because where is he in the ordinary day. It is my own fault as well of course, I haven’t done things that would have helped.

Yet I have no shame in saying that I’m weak. I needed help to do things I that I don’t find easy to do and God seemed silent. H____ quoted C.S. Lewis in her sermon a few weeks.

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

I’d feel embarrassed or ashamed to call my experience suffering compared to what I know others have had to go through and are going through. Yet it’s this feeling that God has somehow left the building that is wearing me down and making me cranky. Of course it’s not all about meeting Jesus in the rose garden but it all just seems to much weighted towards struggle and lacking in the miraculous.

I guess that I’ve been reflecting on this stuff a bit as we think about what is going to happen next. It worries me a bit having so much crankiness fuel stored up in the tank for the road ahead.

the 15th of January

So in a sense we made it, we got to a milestone in that from today , the 15th of January H__ could have her own church, a church in which she is the minister and I am officially the ministers wife.
This could happen soon or it could be in another year, it may not happen at all but it theoretically could happen, she is someone ready to be called. What does that mean? What lies ahead?
I don’t think it’s been an understatement to say that I’ve been completely dislocated by this whole experience of moving to somewhere that was in some sense chosen by people I don’t know, it was something that I was prepared to do but I never really settled and if truth be told I liked living in Dublin. Belfast has been a struggle,perhaps I resented different things too much.

I never really liked Belfast even when I was a student in Queens, I know lots of people love it but we just haven’t gelled at all. And I’ve been a nightmare to live with, I’ve withdrawn from people and being unemployed (or strictly speaking self employed) means that I’ve been hermit like.

So part of me wonders what the next move will be like? What will happen now that we’ve more of a say in our options? Yet also we’ve also less options because there are some churches that disagree with women ministers and won’t be interested. The major fear is that our next move will be as hard as this move was. That freaks me out. I’d like home of sorts, not just a house. So 15th January, you’ve been marked, a little stone alter of blog words has been left. Exile was tough, I want a home.