We had a good and constructive meeting yesterday. Just some clergy from my little part of the world sharing some coffee and sorting out some problems. I came away feeling so much better than I did in the morning. It lifted me because I was meeting with people who knew where I was, shared a similar agenda, spoke the same language, and instilled a feeling of collegiality. So it should be. We are not Congregationalists!
A problem had arisen which meant we had to meet, and I think we all left feeling that we should all meet, problems or not. That feels good to me.
Often clergy can be inclined to be too busy for our own good. Not another meeting, we wail. Oh! Lord! The Rector of Little St Reuben's will be there. Can I stand it? Will the Rector of St Archie-in-the-Snow boast about how successful her parish is? Will the crucified Priest-in-Charge of Christ-in-the-Desert come to moan about the terrifying bouts of depression he suffers? Facebook Friends are easier to deal with!
The fact is that in AA or NA Meetings, the "OK" and long-time sober/straight come because others need them to be there. In a congregation, we sometimes need to come to church because others need us to be there. Clergy meetings are no different. Sometimes we just need the presence of others in the same boat who know the issues and are willing to "be present" for us.
Maybe I'm getting old. When I was first ordained, there was a "brotherhood" amongst clergy. I remember getting up at 6am one morning every week to join brother clergy at a Mass then breakfast. It was simply not allowed to miss this! However, it began to fall away much earlier than the ordination of women. It's not the fault of women priests then! What happened? Was there something in training at some point that encouraged clergy to think that they were on their own?
I mention the ordination of women for a purpose. I may offend many by saying that amongst the gifts that women bring to the priesthood is the gift of motherhood, and a natural gift of gathering the family around her, enabling the 'family' to meet together and inter-react. Oh that we had women who would take on this role in clergy chapters or even local situations. In this Diocese, and I'll get clobbered for this, we have an incredible woman who takes on this role so successfully. I'm convinced that her gender is helpful in this respect.
So, yes, clergy meetings are necessary and beneficial, and the more localised the better. I might be terribly wrong, but it is my feeling that the ministry of women, sometimes but not always, is designed to enable the coming together that we have lost somewhere along the way.
We have lost our collegiality. Perhaps our women can help us to redefine this and encompass us into a caring and sharing group of people again?
Now I baton down the hatches and prepare for war!