Tag Archives: Church

Dealing with Church Politics

In a meeting on Monday, I used the term ‘Church Politics’ which was greeted with some surprise by one member of the committee who said that there wasn’t any politics in our Church… Didn’t take him long to concede that there was though…

The problem we have at the moment is what should have been purely and administrative issue, which thanks to a lost e-mail has spiralled into a much larger pastoral problem – probably the perfect example of why ‘Church Politics’ are so complicated.

Our situation relates to on of the church groups – like any other they exist under the umbrella of the PCC, so when ‘they’ wanted to buy equipment, it was actually the PCC who bought it and legally own it.

Back in 2006, they made a rejected bid for lottery funding for a community project they wanted to undertake, so went to the local council for advice. The expert there, who has a one hundred percent success rate at getting funding apparently, said that the problem was that they were too closely associated with the Church, as a result they effectively recreated their group as a separate legal entity. The problem came from the fact that they informed the PCC via an e-mail, which it seems was never received.

Roll on to just before Christmas, and all the PCC get an invitation to a launch event celebrating the group having received funding – since the group separated they had not had to consult the PCC about the application. However since the PCC hadn’t discussed their new group at all, most people still thought it was part of the PCC. The fact that they are a legally separate group is a bit of an issue because all the equipment bought by the group prior to the split is legally the property of the PCC, and anything bought afterwards is theirs. Since the PCC has to account for all it’s assets we unfortunately can’t just give away the equipment used by the group.

As a result there have been accusations flying around all over the place, and yesterday I ended up in a meeting with three of the group, the rector, and the advisor from Wokingham Borough trying to pick a way through the mess. On both sides we’ve got rather hurt and angry people, all of whom seem to be managing to repeatedly misunderstand each other. Hopefully we made a good deal of progress, but we still have to get everything sorted out.

So any lessons to learn? I think the biggest is that if you’re on a PCC, make sure that you know what your groups are doing. Our PCC, like most I expect, doesn’t hear anything much from any of their groups most of the time – there will maybe be the occasional request for money, but with this group, nobody really spotted what was happening. The issue here was that the notification to the PCC of the change consisted of verbal conversations with some members, none of whom actually seemed to take on board what was happening, and a single e-mail that got lost. The members of the group admitted that they didn’t really understand the wider implications of what they were doing when they wrote their constitution, and the expert from Wokingham Borough didn’t seem to understand the restrictions that a Church of England Church operated under either. The other lesson to learn is not to rely on e-mail – much like any other communication medium, messages can get lost.

Another Geocaching Convert?

Found It!

You know those moments when someone thinks they’re telling you about some really great secret, but you, and a load of other people already know? Various of us at St James had that experience this morning listening to Rev Richard’s sermon.

On his day off, he and Penny his wife had headed off to the Bramshill Plantation, a large area of Forestry Commission land just over the border into Hampshire on the other side of Eversley. They went walking off into the forest, Rev Richard armed with a map and compass, and managed to get them thoroughly lost.

Luckily for them, they met someone else walking through the forest, and asked him if he knew where they were, he pulled out a handheld GPS unit – something Rev Richard hadn’t seen – and read off the co-ordinates. They then got talking about precisely why this man was wandering around the forest, and he said he was a Geocacher, and that he’d just done one of the caches that are hidden in the plantation.

At this point in telling the story, Rev Richard asked whether anybody knew about Geocaching, and I guess was slightly surprised at the people who knew. The reason of course that a lot of people around the Church know becomes clear when you watch our Geocaching video in which our segment is filmed around St James. Various people know about the game having seen us on the programme when it was originally shown, and various others, generally those involved with grounds maintenance know about the game having inadvertently found the cache – indeed the cache has moved twice following occasions when the regular maintenance rendered the previous location unsuitable. The interesting thing is that despite having been here several years, nobody had actually told Rev Richard about the cache. Not surprising really as it’s not usually the kind of thing that comes up in conversation…

Anyway, Rev Richard carried on, telling how the Geocacher had taken him back to the cache he had just found, and the story was used as an analogy – searching for treasure with the Christian search for ‘treasure’.

St Swithun's Nately Scures

After the service I told Richard quite how close he’s been to a geocache (our Queens Oak cache mentioned in the film) for the past few years, indeed the fact he’s walked past it every day. I also mentioned myself and Beth’s involvement, including us being one of the seven founder teams behind the Geocaching Association of Great Britain, and have since sent him the link to the video. I’ve also taken the opportunity to upload some of the older Geocaching snapshots I have on iPhoto – these ones are from back in 2003, including some shots of the preserved planes a Lasham Aerodrome which figure as clues in a cache, and another church with a cache close by, the almost totally unaltered St Swithun’s Nately Scures, which gives you an idea of what St James must once have looked like before the subsequent generations started knocking through bigger windows and adding bits.

So I guess the question is, has Rev Richard now got the Geocaching bug?

Methodists Launch a Credit Card

lentcard.gif

The daily e-mail from Ekklesia made me sit up and take notice this morning – the Methodist Church in the UK is launching a credit card

This seemed somewhat ironic considering the discussion I was having with a Christian friend yesterday about her feelings now that she didn’t work in the finance industry, as she had always felt uncomfortable with some of the things that went on. For example something I’ve fallen foul of, processing all the debits against an account before the credits, which of course generates an overdrawn charge if money in the account is tight, or the brewing concerns over mis-sold home loans – as she said, the industry seems to make most of it’s money from those who can least afford to pay. I can think of numerous other examples from my own experience, for example energy companies who charge those using key meters – generally those on low incomes – more than those on regular meters. Just reading the headline, the question of whether a Church should be getting involved in the finance industry is definitely foremost…

Of course, the Methodist Church isn’t getting into the finance business, as the card won’t allow you to spend any money at all. The launch is part of their Lent campaign, which is aiming to get people to consider before they spend, looking to address the soaring levels of consumer debt in the UK, and refocus participants in the campaign as to their priorities. The idea of the ‘credit card’ is that participants will keep it in their wallet, and be reminded whenever they reach for one of their real cards, and maybe think twice about whether they really need what they are about to buy. The concerns about consumer debt aren’t just restricted to the Methodist Church – the Church of England has recently added an entire new section to their website dealing with the same issue.

The Methodist Church are keen to point out that this isn’t about not spending anything:

“When we take time to think about the things we buy and why we buy them, it can help us to reconsider our priorities. I may well want to buy something, but does that mean that I need it?”

“However, Buy Less: Live More isn’t about depriving yourself of those things you want; it’s about looking at life in a new way, trying different things and taking a few risks. So as well as reducing your carbon footprint by getting off the consumer treadmill, you can live life in all its fullness.”

Alongside the card itself, participants can sign up to an e-mail list that will issue daily ‘Buy Less’ and ‘Live More’ challenges, along with a dedicated Facebook group to support the campaign.

Alienating the Youth

We spent New Year visiting some friends down in Plymouth. One of the topics of conversation that comes up a lot when we talk to them is frustration with their local Church, where it seems that the older members very much dictate what happens, to the point that the uniformed youth organisations are no longer allowed to parade because the older members don’t like having children in Church – indeed it was apparently even a struggle to get a Children’s Crib Service this year. What is even more frustrating is that talking to our friends daughter, she wants to go to a church but doesn’t feel welcome! She is somewhat pinning her hopes on the fact that the current vicar is about to retire and that they might get a more family friendly replacement – so does anyone who have any influence over the selection process in Exeter Diocese? If our village of just over 3000 in Berkshire can get nearly 2000 people of all ages through the doors over Christmas, surely it’s not rocket science to get a city Church with a parish of thousands to not alienate young people who want to come?

Famous Last Words

This afternoon was the last wedding of the season for the choir. One of the parents, dropping off their children to sing in the choir asked the priest what time it was likely to finish.

“Should be over by about twenty-to-three.� says the reverend.

“What about if the bride is late?� comes the question from another choir member.

“No, this couple is really well organised – I didn’t even need to have the final meeting with them as they had everything in hand,â€? came the reply.

Famous last words – the ushers didn’t have enough orders of service and ended up getting people to share. The order of service wasn’t even the order they did the service in either. As for not being late, the bride was twenty-five minutes late arriving because the driver had taken them to the wrong church…

Best Laid Plans

I always remember growing up some of the more stressful moments my parents had dealing with Church stuff, especially when it came to the joys of doing anything to the fabric of the Church – indeed even now we have conversations about the problems with our respective buildings and dealing with the Church politics around them.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before we are in the process of planning a project to undertake major work to conserve the fabric of our crumbling building. The planned start date has been put back on a couple of occasions, and is scheduled to start at the beginning of January 2008 – all we needed was the official permission from the relevant authorities. We’d put in the paperwork and got a few apparently straightforward questions back, and everything seemed on target – however as with all the best laid plans, reading my e-mails tonight it seems the questions are rather more involved than first thought… I can feel a long PCC coming on next week… 🙁

Typical – Big Concert and Richard Gets a Cough

So with our big Autumn Concert coming up tomorrow, what was a slightly sore throat on Wednesday night has progressed through occasional coughing, to a delightful tickly cough today – problem is that it’s just the kind of cough that can reduce me to a coughing fit if I push my singing voice in the wrong way. Fingers crossed it improves before tomorrow night!

Anyway, whether it gets worse or better, tomorrow night is the St James Church Choir Autumn Concert in the Church. There are fifteen items on the programme – so it shouldn’t be too long before the audience can get across to the finger buffet in the Parish Centre. There is a good mix of choir and solo items, including a big finish with Morte Christe followed by O Thou the Central Orb – which is why I don’t particularly want to have a tickly cough on the night!

All proceeds to the Conservation Appeal too. Kick off is 7:30pm, and as far as I am aware tickets will be on the door too.