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On the death of a dream, and after 5 June 2007

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Ponderings.

How can you speak of failure in the context of mission? Even in terms of regular ministry? I have had numerous people tell me that there is no such thing as failure in this context – the nearest thing to seems to be to say that you failed to reach your expectations, or that they were unrealistic. Not to mention the truism that we can never truly know the value of our endeavours in the longer term.

All these things are true. And I have failed. I’ve failed to live up to my potential, and I need to address that.

Now that the Fellowship have appointed their own full-time Minister I can let go properly of any hope of unity in the form I had envisaged when I arrived. Now I can look more reasonably at the contributory factors and decide what constitutes my failure.

I still believe that God called us here. Even if enthusiasm blinded me to any reasonable caution I should have had. Curacy does not train you for mission. I understand that a lot better now than I did then. It teaches you your place within the institution that is the church, whether that is the immediate local, parochial context, the wider structure, and even the physical building that is the church. It does not prepare you for an enthusiastic group of Christians, mainly from outside your “tradition” and all their expectations. Expectations which have arisen in the absence of a Minister, but with just as many implicit preconceptions of how church is to be done and how faith is to be lived out. It does not prepare you for all the issues which come with a lack of focal point in the built environment.

I came with ideas, but no clearly articulated vision. Instead I had hoped to spend time meeting people, learning about the opportunities, the expectations, that lay on the ground. With hindsight I allowed myself to be rushed into action. My insecurity in the face of a different vision and ‘institution’ set me on a confrontational/competitive course almost immediately. I’m not saying I’m the only one who made mistakes: there have been (unintentional, and dare I say those whch look frightening close to deliberate) mistakes by all parties. I’m not enough of a spiritual masochist to say it’s all my own fault, but there are things I have to take responsibility for.

For an unwillingness to stand my ground a lot earlier than I did, as much as the places where I buckled under the pressure of expectations.

For the creeping apathy which sees the cause as lost and an attendant unwillingness to really ask for help, or to act upon the offers made.

For failing to perceive the way ahead in nurturing those I have care of, as much as seeking to spark interest in the pastoral enquirers.

For seeing the negative in the situations, “the iceberg rather than the promised land.”

For failing to act on so many bright ideas (even if some other discerning individuals around would be helpful rather than the ovine tendency to say “if you say so”).

I’m sure there’s more of the same. Maybe there is no such thing as failure in toto, but I have failed. I have failed to truly live my calling. I have failed to live the life that marks out Christian faith as distinctive and so failed to draw others closer to Christ.

Maybe this is all part of the grief process, of letting go for that which is not to be.

Thank God that we believe in forgiveness and restoration, or more to the point that he has already demonstrated it in Jesus.

“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just. He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And to live that means to continually confront and battle with my own fallible nature, which will find this stream-of-consciousness theological reflection preferable to the important tasks of the day!

Somehow the Collect for today seemed to help crystalise these ponderings, and it never does any harm to end with a prayer…

God our redeemer,
who called your servant Boniface
to preach the gospel among the German people
and to build up your Church in holiness:
grant that we may preserve in our hearts
that faith which he taught with his words
and sealed with his blood,
and profess it in lives dedicated to your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

…although maybe ending in response to prayer might be even better! So how am I going to live the Gospel today?



1. Kathryn - 8 June 2007

A few days since you posted this, as i’ve been away…but that sounds like a huge and painful learning process and one for which you have both my admiration and my sympathy – and lots of prayers.
I spent most of the retreat focussing on my own inadequacies, too…so maybe there’s something in the air (which might just be the Spirit?)
Hugs anyway

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