the right question

Quite an amazing thing happened in ‘Spoons today. I have noticed a guy who has been wary of me, not giving eye contact even when we were sat near to each other, never returning the good morning I offer. Recently we were sat in a meeting together and his facial expression gave no hint of recognition.

Today I asked him one question about the meeting, which was around something he and his wife are amazingly involved with and a conversation started which lasted for a good 30 minutes. The guy shared where he lived, his other hobbies, where he worked before he retired, what he did before then and so on.

It struck me again that people don’t know how to relate to the ‘church’ or what are seen as professional church people. As a wearer of a dog collar I am seen as ‘the church’ and I wonder whether the avoidance is uncertainty, or maybe even embarrassment, about what to say or maybe what my response will be to what they say. Some see it as a sign of holding some power or authority.

A few days ago someone suggested to another guy that he should talk to me. His immediate response was ‘I have nothing to confess’ and so closing the conversation as if to say that is the only way I know how to relate to church. Persoanlly it was quite a painful moment with a clear rejection forcefully called across the pub. I don’t believe the guy was having a go, or even that he was avoiding me but that this was more of an uncertainty of how to act or behave or what to say. Limited knowledge of what church is about results in limited options of how to relate and understand it. Sometimes I really wish I could be present without my dog collar … but if I did the anonymity of that would achieve very little to my mind.

Today’s conversation was great and interesting and hopefully will go some way to showing that I am not there to hit people with religion, but merely to be there for people, whatever that may mean.

It seems to me that we need to break down barriers and be available to people. I am wondering more and more whether this is done by finding the right connection, whether that is a similar interest or finding the right question to ask or right comment to make. That certainly seemed to be the case today. I think I am seeing more and more that is is up to me to be proactive in this by observing what is happening and taking opportunities if they come.

Another thought is that my pro-activity results in making myself publicly vulnerable and giving all the power to the other person. If I greet, ask a question or make a comment the other person has the power to answer, ignore or ridicule. I think it is right to give the power to the other person, but its only recently that I have come to understand that this is in fact what I am doing. By stepping out I become vulnerable and I wonder if in some way by doing so I give the perceived power of the dog collar away.

2 thoughts on “the right question

  1. You have to be authentically who you are and that means not hiding that you are a vicar but making it the badge of honour that it truly is. What you are trying to do is create rapport upon which you can start to build a relationship. In a relationship you have to relate to the other person which does give them the power to slight or ignore you. I have absolutely no doubt that in stepping forward you are doing the right thing though you will suffer ‘knock backs’ but we were nver promised it would be easy!

  2. thanks Darrel – always good to hear from you.I think I disagree with the ‘badge of honour’ comment you make – i tend to think of it as more the mark of a servant … if you get what I mean. Honour makes others think it is something to be admired, respected and so on … wheras it is first and foremost and always a call to serving others.Hope you are well – we should catch up soon … but i know living so far away from each other might make that a challenge!

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