In church life, or more specifically in that eight minute slot of time after the main Sunday Service before we fall behind the next cup of Fairly Traded Tepid brown fluid, many transactions take place. Sometimes those transactions are about the sale of the Parish Staple - the raffle ticket (where you are apt to win some Parish Lavender Smellies). Other times those transactions revolve around the Post Mortem of The Parish Microphone and Its Vagueries.
Early spring sees a new, intense, purposeful transaction: it is the 'Will You Stand for Election at the next APCMPCPMCPM [the big annual church meeting] - there is a vacancy for X, Y or Z'.
When I was younger (hard to imagine that I was younger than I am now, but it is a fact that mother didn't give birth to a 6' hard man of God), I used to be on a PCC, and when I approached that momentous time, had to go through (wait for it, I am not going to lie here) an election. The first time I sought a place on a PCC, in excess of thirty people put themselves forward for election, submitted little biographies (I had no idea so many people in church life could claim time as Sidespeople), and the tension was amazing at Results Time. Sod X Factor - PCC elections were far more tense. I digress.
Among those elections, from time time, were those for Officer Roles in the Parish (warden, secretary, treasurer - that sort of thing). To be there they had either worked a long time to impress the right people, were there through merit, or simply weren't as fast as the Vicar when he came calling (let it not go un-noticed that pre-APMCMMPDMPMCCMP Vicars are like the rutting stags in Bushy Park that are currently hounding the tourists at the moment - "we must find our next Officers for the circle-of-life to keep turning"). Candidates are pursued, persuaded, elected, enthroned, sworn in before Archdeacons and set to work running the show while the Vicar takes the
glory services. Oh yes, it is true! And so the Tenure begins.
But all good things come to an end, and here we have a problem in the church. Eventually the need arises for the once-hunted willing volunteer to lay down the chattels of their Office and withdraw from it and its appurtenances. Personal experience (professionally and non-professionally speaking) has taught me two things:
1. That it is or can be very painful to make that withdrawal if you have assumed significant authority2. "Church" and "Succession Planning" are rarely things that you will ever see in the same sentence (barring the ironic or negative)
I know people who have felt a great pain, or anticipate it, when they stop or are about to stop doing what they do. I am not sure that Mother Church has ever cottoned on to that fact, simply because that pain is lost or obscured by the next season of the Vicar Rut. I think it revolves around personal validation and all that - that once someone was 'Somebody', but then after elections, feel like 'Nobody'.
Then we have the great Vicar Rut. Mother Church rarely thinks ahead because we tend towards the Great Lurch (from one circumstance to the next). I am already guilty because I have no earthly idea who my next Treasurer or Warden is going to be (I could blame the 'being new' thing, but it won't cut it for long). I should know, and in the next cycle, should know at least a year in advance and have that candidate working towards the role in some other constructive way (yes I know they are elected, but I am in the real world here).
I will ponder the solutions to these perennial problems, together with every cleric who has a duty to a PCC. However, what we need to learn very quickly is that those who held the keys once, don't automatically sign with joyous relief when we wrest them from their reluctant clasp!