25th July 2013

It's been a good week: Royal baby, Tour-de-France, Ashes win, pity about the golf, not forgetting Lions Rugby and Murray Tennis. According to French commentators the Brits have become too 'calculating' about their sport. Oh my, don't we feel good, at last we are becoming the people God must have intended us to be!

In our faith community we are capable of similar triumphalism. We have learned to gloat when health research turns our way, or our public endeavours gain recognition and hurrah for the narcissists.

Meanwhile, I have had a busy month with time only to read bits of the book 'Turn around Teams' while visiting 6 different institutions outside of our territory, and being confronted with as many substantial issues from within our Union. Between places one gets a sense of 'here we go again'. Were I writing end of term reports, as one does, I would have to write 'could do better', or 'must improve' though in one case, the adjudicators report says 'enough is enough'.

When it comes to our short coming, we dont have the courage to be quite so open, let alone calculating. Where in our PR machines do we confess to have 'mucked up', resolved to learn, change our habits and fix things? How do we speak of revival and reformation, when we are not too keen to identify what needs to be revived, and where we should reform? Surely revival does not refer only to personal spirituality, after all faith without work is dead.

We can ask questions about each circumstance, of individuals, we can cite anecdotes, but more properly we need to ask questions of ourselves and our prevailing operating culture. What happens to the psyche of an organisation when it believes that it has more revealed truth than others?

In each case there is a lack of voluntary accountability. In each case we have known that our performance was sub optimal, yet been uncomfortable voicing our concerns and insisting on change. In each case we define barriers between insiders and outsiders. In each case we prefer to draw a protective ring around ourselves rather than accept constructive criticism. In each case, we discover that our consensual governance style is too forgiving of under-performance. In each case access to change agents is resisted. In each case we notice resistance to the adoption of best practice, the more so if defined by those outside.

Beyond embarrassment, we need to humbly acknowledge that some of those we attend could have been better served, and offer some expression of apology. It is true that there is a risk of becoming morbid and spiralling into destructive self pity and acrimony, worse still we can shrug our shoulders without resolution.

Better by far is the need to recognise our structural weakness and determine to sharpen up our processes, to shun political criteria, and embrace the pursuit of excellence, not just in institutions, but in every congregation by every officer whether paid or voluntary.

Having heard much about Jeremiah from Ian and Nehemiah from Lorance among others, one soon recognises that prophecy is not about self congratulation. Israel was a community that was repeatedly called to repentance and reconstruction.

My prayer is that we will each hold courage, that we will affirm our faith, that we salute the hard work and anxious struggle of all those who have served and reflect on how failure will not arise in our circle of influence. I trust that we will become open to direction and correction.

Thank you for your commitment to Jesus Christ and to the service to those for whom he lived and died. Our difficulties not withstanding, you are valued.

It could yet end as an even better week. Hold cheer.

Challenged with optimism, best regards

Victor ( in the midst of strife )

[Victor Pilmoor]

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