I am going to the football today to watch Gillingham. For the first time ever in years I really can get no enthusiasm and, if I did not have season tickets and the boys were not depending on me to get them there, I think I would park myself in a bar somewhere and join others watching the England game later.
Why have I lost enthusiasm for the team that I will say I still love? Is it about disappointment of performances, lack of commitment from management and players, pain of mediocrity again? I don’t know, but I think it is a combination of all of that, and more I guess.
A large part, though, in my analysis of this thought pattern is the lack of engagement with the fans of the manager. He walks past the fans each week 4 times (at the start and end of each half) never looking up from the floor. He never looks at the fans, he never acknowledges the support, he never claps the fans; he just walks out looking at the floor and walks in looking at the floor. There is no engagement. It is like he is uninterested. This is the first time I have experienced this lack of interaction from a manager towards fans. Interestingly, this non-interaction occurs amidst the others players usually walking around the pitch and clapping the fans for their encouragement at the end of the match.
For the first time last week the manager came out and no one clapped him. People continued with their conversations. The team had come out earlier and been cheered. The manager came out and there was nothing. There was no engagement. This is the first time I have ever seen the fans fail to acknowledge or clap the manager when he comes out of the changing room. The lack of engagement was telling.
Today I am tempted to stay away. It seems selfish and sounds like I am sulking because I am not being treated in a way that I feel I should be. That could be true but I hope that is not the case.
I think people feel the manager does not care, lack of interaction gives that impression. This belief, whether correct or not, causes people, I think, to become negative and then stay away. I want to stay away today not because I’ve stopped loving my team, not because I have stopped being a fan, and not because I have stopped caring. I want to stay away because I can’t bear the pain of further demise under a management that seems not to care. I want to stay away because I honestly feel unable to do anything to instigate any positive change. In the past I have felt part of the team … we would come home saying how well ‘we’ had played. There is no such connection at this point in time.
I wonder if there is something in this experience that I can learn for church, particularly in a cathedral setting. I remember Adrian, the Dean, saying at the start of my life here that as we process in and out he attempts to make eye contact with people in the congregation. I do this now other wise we walk in and out and could give the impression of lack of interest due to lack of acknowledgment or interaction with the rest of the cathedral community.
It’s easy to be stuck in the ritual of stuff, whether that be training football players or processing down an aisle, or leading a Eucharist. At the cathedral I think we are quite good at engaging with people, but I do wonder whether part of church decline is to do with this over-bearing attention to detail, but dis-attention to personal engagement with other human beings.
Could it be true that some people have not stopped loving God? Certainly people have not stopped calling themselves Christians. I know this because I have met many over the last few years. People are interested in God, but feel totally unconnected and disenfranchised from the church. Feelings that are caused, in part, by a combination of lack of interest in them from those seen to be in authority, but also from a realisation that there is nothing they can do to cause a change.
To move forward people need to feel their investment is authentic. They need to feel they have a say and that what they say will make a difference. As I ponder this while i look to develop a new Christian community with others I realise anything else results in a mediocrity of absence.