A little while ago I was persuaded by my good friend Anna to join Sion College … who have a strap line of ‘supporting the education and fellowship of church of England clergy in London’.
Each month Sion College hosts seminar suppers amongst other things. I really enjoy the chance to meet new people, and old friends, and engage with some great thinkers and practitioners…. and eat good food and drink wine!
At the last Sion Supper, we listened to Hilary Ison speak on ‘Priesthood and Leadership’ and I found myself, once again, resonating with a lot of what was said.
I found myself sitting up and tuning in quite intently (despite the abundance of red wine) when Hilary said ‘priesthood is about the quality of presence’. I love that phrase,
Quality of Presence
and it sums up what I wish to do and be as a priest …. to be present …. really present …. really and fully present to those that I meet with and come across. I believe wholeheartedly that great quality of presence, where you have time for one person, and totally devote that time to being with them, to showing them they are worth your time and, even more, communicating through that presence that you are actually wanting to be with them, not just being there because you have nowhere else to be. Sometimes I have got that so wrong … and I have learnt the hard way that when that happens massive genuine regret doesn’t cut it! Sometimes quality of presence with strangers seems to be a lot easier than quality of presence with people that really matter on a personal level to me. I wish I could do so much better on that.
Hilary went on to say that we needed to have the confidence to reclaim the priestly role of being present with both God and people which inevitably needs a massive level of vulnerability.
There comes that word again!
It seems I cannot get away from it.
May I refer you again to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability …
She went further to say that when working with others, leaders of presence needed to be confident in their wait … in holding ‘negative anxiety’ (which occurs when things are taking a while to happen) … the vulnerable bit coming in the holding of that anxiety (both personal and communal) as they wait for God to act and for vision to emerge.
Sometimes that can be hard when the pressure is on to deliver results, or increased numbers or maybe even to do something very different …. but as painful as it is …. bearing that vulnerability of presence when needing to balance tensions of anxiety and waiting for God to reveal a plan is really the only thing to do. Maybe that can be easier to do when we remember that church is family and community, rather than business with business ways of working.
the vulnerability if that waiting and holding …
anyone else wish God would sometimes just be that teeny weeny bit quicker tho ….. ?