Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Uncomfortable Democracy

Did you know that the title "Archdeacon" literally means head-server? It is just one of those archaic terms that is still in use, but that speaks to a core value of the Anglican Church.

We are a pyramid shaped Church, but it’s an upside down pyramid, with bishops and clergy at the bottom and the people at the top. We are a people who believe that God’s Holy Spirit continues to lead us, but leads all of us, not just a few select people. This is why meetings like Parish Council and the Annual meeting are so important. You are the leaders of the Church. I, and the other clergy of the parish, are your servants.

It used to be a tradition that monarchs would process to special events leading the way, with their trusted advisors just behind them and a long line, in descending order, of others in the entourage ending with the lowliest of servants. The Church turned that procession upside down, with servers in front and the bishop at the last.

No doubt this tradition evolved based on Matthew 1: 16, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." But it also evolved so that we could thumb our noses at monarchs who continue to think so highly of themselves. Our Church structures are designed to send a message that we are structured differently.

This week I saw a TV documentary about singer/song writer Bruce Cockburn and in it he was talking about his need to have a solo career. He spoke of the "uncomfortable democracy" of a band. I thought that phrase was kind of funny and accurate. Often democracy is uncomfortable because in it we have to live with disagreement and compromise.

Well, Annual meetings and Parish Councils are sometimes uncomfortable because there’s sometimes disagreement and compromise. Sometimes they’re worse - they can be boring. The important thing to remember is that nothing exciting and spirit-filled will happen if we don’t do the boring work of preparation and enabling. That’s what the Annual meeting and the Parish Council is all about, enabling the exciting and Spirit-filled Word of God to abound in the world.

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