Monday, 6 December 2010

Getting It Wrong

I come from a world where, in an instance where I made a flawed decision, chose a wrong path, or just plain messed up, that 'feedback' was delivered by the Fedex Instant Service, packaged in the 'Between the Eyes' range of postal boxes.

This doesn't happen at all often in priesthood (read 'curacy', perhaps) - and it is easy to misconstrue that as doing very well on all fronts. This cloud of blissful unknowing is rather alluring, and in the end, it is easy to become convinced of the view that we just don't get things wrong. We all know, of course, that that just isn't true - as I discovered today when I had my windscreen cleaned for me.

Without going into the details of my trangression, I find myself (and not for the first time) wondering how to find the find the right boundaries when delivering the spoken word, my 'message', in a world where the edges are all but invisible (and electrified to 20,000 volts). In other words, it is almost impossible to sense the danger ahead, until it is a matter for hindsight. For me, my thing is 'personal style', so I am in sporadic danger of becoming the Marmite Minister - love him or hate him. You who read my blog will know my style, but it is easy to forget that others do not. 

I have choices in the light of my failure to deliver something appropriately (for some). I want to be me, because in the end, 'me' is all I have. I want to resist the urge to become benign and flacid in what I say and how I say it, but neither do I want 'me' to become a blanket that smothers and obscurs things for those who are unfamiliar with this curate or the core message he brings. I want to discern the 'danger' that is in the 'cloud of unknowing' so that I don't find myself sitting here again feeling like I currently do, and ever mindful that I chuffed off at least one significant member of the community, and it can't be very nice for them either. Priests want to please, we want to serve properly, do the very best we can in all circumstances - and most importantly, be a proper conduit for the grace and love of God - that is largely what we are paid to do. When it goes wrong, it is among the hardest things for us to cope with - because it represents a failure at so many levels (in my honest and humble opinion).


  1. You can't get it right all the time, David. Aware of the pitfalls and potential problems you can only do your best. And when it goes wrong you can apologise to upset people and learn something from the experience. Chin up, I don't know you in real life, but you are an encouragement to me and many through your blog and I thank you. Mary x

  2. Don't change to accommodate anyone. The greatest gift you can give is yourself and not a modified version. I know we have always to be polite and I would never be aggressive but I would not fudge an answer either. It's a tightrope act sometimes but you are more than capable of dealing with it.

  3. Very difficult situation - but yes, you are called to be you, and (like all of us) are learning all the time.

    My sense is that you will indeed be a conduit for God's grace and love in how you respond to this. Prayers that your relationship with offended party will recover and grow through this.

    And don't forget God's love for you too!!

  4. can I just say 'I love marmite' it doesn't pretend to be what it is not nor change it's ingredients to try to please everyone!!! Sometimes, as ministers, we can easily forget that we, too, are human and being human = mistakes....but then being perfect, as you know, I wouldn't understand any of this!!! take care, love Judyxx (moreteajudy on twitter)

  5. My experience is that I need to make theses kinds of "mistakes" in order to learn. One doesn't come to the priesthood knowing how to do everything and sometimes it takes a spectacular goof up for me to learn (yet again) that 1) I don't do everything well all the time, 2) some of my ideas are not good in every situation, and 3) I need to continue to look to mentors (and sometimes those mentors turn out to be my parishioners, even the ones I ticked off) who really teach me how to be a priest. I am learning that the folks who are entrusted to my care can teach me a lot, even though I think I'm supposed to be teaching them!
    Chin up, as Mary says. You've had a learning experience.

  6. You CANNOT please all de people all de time. (Oh, HOW you cannot do that!)
    If you are pleasing any of de people any of de time you are probably doing rather well.
    (But it's always good to be put back in your place now & again.)
    Don't change.

  7. No-one who has been "entertained" by one of your more Cloakey sermons could ever accuse you of not getting the message in there somewhere,
    The way in which you do it has quite a powerful affect on those listening.
    Of course you do not always 'get it right' Who does?
    I'm sure this extends to the way you do most things, maybe not the way most people do them but all the more interesting for that. As you say, you are you, why try to be someone else?

  8. Why not become an evangelical? You can then be rude to gays and women all the time.

  9. Thanks to you all. I appreciate your kindness and your candour. I reflect on the fact that I am glad to know when I chuff people off sometimes, than to gad aimlessly through life like some effervescent elf. Whoever said that learning would ever easy for a proud fool like me.



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