Saturday, January 18, 2014
The Many Pitfalls Redefining Power: part one
So trying to critique of power and trying to do power differently. When this began we were fueled by excitement and fearlessness. I love us for that. And we discovered new and exciting ways of making and being spiritual community.
But I'm going to start with a post on what doesn't work. Or hasn't worked. And maybe some musings about why it is so difficult. And I will have several posts about this. That being said, it is still worth attempting. I still believe it is important and possible. The thing about reinventing the wheel is that there must be commitment to constant trial and error.
As pastor of this hodgepodge community the first changes were easy: don't use the position of clergy to be coercive, abusive, oppressive or hierarchical.
This has been a fount of joy and sometimes a thunderstorm of problems.
When doing and being church with people from many different ages, races, classes, educational levels and traditions who may also have experienced different levels of rejection or spiritual abuse because of their gender or sexuality the pot is stirred before it is even placed over the fire. And everyone brings a personal brand of issue to the pot.
Many hurts came seeking healing.
As pastor, the question was 'how can I help empower a deeply hurting people who also have no experience of exercising power in a church setting?'.
I had a lot of teaching to do, inviting people to answer for themselves questions like:
to what do you give spiritual authority?
the church community?
your personal experience of Godde/Holy Soirit?
some combination of the above?
and what does that mean for you as a spiritual journeyer and for us as companions on the journey?
If a community is used to giving the preacher authority, being feminist church means critiquing that and finding new ways. over and over and over again.
A problem happens when the over and over again stops.
I learned this the very hard way.
When new people become a part of the community and haven't intentionally challenged their understandings of power and authority the system reverts to the preconceived and previously experienced understanding of clergy and church.
My very bad.
This I have learned: doing things differently requires vigilance.
It means we must be mindfully engaged with the issues of power at all times.
It was too easy for me to revert to unchallenged expectations of pastor in order to 'get things done.'
Most feminists, especially those of us in leadership positions, have experienced 'death by process'. We sometimes process our ideas or intentions into non-existence. Therein lies the rub.
More later on the woes of what doesn't work.
And stay tuned. There is much that does work, there is much that challenges, lifts, inspires and enlightens the shared sacred journey.
Hard work required.