Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Incumbency and Vases of Flowers

A wise man once told me to be careful when moving vases of flowers. It is not that vases of flowers shouldn't be moved from time to time, or even removed and refreshed. Of course they should, when the time is right and the need apparent. 

For "vase of flowers" read "what we have always done", and for "always" read "more than three times". I speak, of course, about change, and more particularly those changes that take place within a church. The unique factor of church vases of church flowers, is that beneath each one is a trip switch which causes an explosion upon the removal of it, like a landmine. Boom. 

I am fast discovering that curates are broadly immune to the effects of the explosion (largely through the protective layer provided by the training incumbent). The Vicar is not similarly protected, and so it is that the vicar's giblets and gizzards are at perpetual risk from all movements of the proverbial Meissen Monster. 

It endlessly fascinates me, and troubles me, the effect that change has (in large or very small measure) on some people. Some Christians, it seems, are pathologically afraid of change in many ways, and I have never fully come to terms with why. Even change born of a careful process of thought, prayer and consultation (and to make something safe and available for all) seems to cause an adverse reaction, often aggressively delivered. And so it is that I am learning to toughen my already world-hardened hide to cope with the fall-out from the Floral Relocation. 

Part of the job of Vicar, as leader in many ways, is to articulate the present. Once the present is seen and acknowledged (not as easy as that may sound), it is needful to make changes from time to time. As seasons change in all walks of life, things change - and in church life at least, the Vicar (or equivalent) is often the one who 'represents' the change tothe wider community, whoever may have been involved in the process leading to it. This is not always easy, as I am fast learning. 

Change is part of living, I believe. If I didn't change, Mrs Acular would be wiping my bottom and blowing my nose for me. If churches didn't change, they would still be convening solely in mud huts in the Middle East. I wonder sometimes if change is not viewed through the same lens as death - as wholly inevitable, but an unsavoury truth best hidden from thought.

I have many vases in the church where I work. The church is beautified by them all and they are receptacles for some stunning blooms. Yet I cannot say, hand on heart, that they will all stay where they are! Someone pass me my Flack Jacket ...


  1. I wonder why people react to tiny changes to the better as if the world is ending. I suspect that we all have our individual comfort zones, and get used to them. When we get taken out of them, we feel like an alien on a different planet (or at least a tad uncomfortable). It seems to me to be a purely human reaction to unexpected or unwanted change. It takes a wider vision to see the benefits of change, and a sense of perspective to see that change is occasionally required if we are to move forward.

    I love sitting in certain places within our various churches, but often change seats to sit alongside new people, or people I don't know that well - they might be uncomfortable having this strange bloke there, but it normally breaks the ice. If not, The Peace, will do it for us both.

    When I find people sitting where I like to sit, I don't grump, or mutter resentfully and glare (as I have known some to do) but sit alongside them or find another space.

    I've been aware of occasions when people have reacted poorly to changes or suggested changes, which our Vicar has had to deal with. I know that some reactions are over the top, while others are just petty. I also know how pleased he is to receive thanks or praise for a change that has met someone's needs. I'm sure that these compensate for the grumps.

  2. One good suggestion is to have various people with jobs in church to talk about what they do and why. Then have someone primed to ask why flowers are place where they are! Sneaky, did you say sneaky?

  3. Maybe in a world where so many things change, in what can be viewed as completely outwith our control- when we walk through church doors we have found things to be the same- and therefore resist change when it happens inside those doors. Although, as you say, when we look back in history the church has changed.

  4. Changed the sick list this week - expecting mortar attack on Sunday - much empathy!

  5. Best of luck!

    Our new 'Priest in Charge' was selected in September, and announced shortly after(licensing in December). The amount of flack my wife (Parish Sec.) and I (nobody, just do the magazine) have taken for meeting/cooperating with him in advance is astonishing.

    It really makes you question it all…

  6. I've noticed that apparent over-reaction to a tiny change in church (of the moving flower vases variety) is sometimes a symptom of a deeper fear. "Is this change the thin edge of the wedge? Flower vase moved today? Holy sacraments gone tomorrow? Is this new Vicar going to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Better take a firm stand now!" For those whose faith or sense of identity is focused on the placement of the flower vase rather than on Christ, this can be frightening. The fact that no change = death gets forgotten. Put on the flak jacket and keep praying brother (sorry - Father!)

  7. Change? CHANGE??? How very dare you?

    Go on then - what have you done?

  8. Brilliant post. Well, don't move those vases of flowers unless you have to. Find some other way of sneaking people deeper into the kingdom.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...