Today I received in the post a mailing from the “head office.” It was a form listing the committees upon which I might serve. I have the option of choosing up to two. There is also a line that reads, “If you do not wish to serve on a committee, please give a reason.”
Oh I have my reasons for not wanting to serve on a presbytery committee. But, “because that would mean attending a committee meeting,” probably does not suffice. The last presbytery committee that I served on met infrequently, as business required. That’s why I opted to be on it. I filled out the form and sent it back and when the list of committees and their members was published, my name wasn’t on it.
Okay, minor oversight. I attended the scheduled committee meeting. We all sat in rows in front of a table at which sat the chairperson of the committee and committee secretary. There was no, “Let’s introduce new members,” let alone welcome them. We went through the business at hand, discussed items and made appropriate decisions. It was fairly cut and dried, mostly dried. Unlike the Psalm, such an evening gone feels more like a thousand years. I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, so much as an activity in which I choose not to spend my time.
I began a process in my current ministry setting that seeks to invest meetings with a sense of spiritual enrichment. Committee meetings have tasks to accomplish and desired outcomes. I began to ponder a set of questions related to committee meetings –
What do people “get out of” a meeting?
How does the structure of the meeting reflect the desired end result? In other words, if the meeting itself is structured in a hierarchical way, with rigid seating plans and an iron-clad agenda, how does that reflect our belief in a spiritual outcome?
If the end result of the meeting relates to the mission and ministry of the church, how is the meeting itself a reflection of that ongoing mission and ministry?
Fortunately in the congregation I am currently serving, committees don’t exist for the sake of committee meetings. If there is a task at hand, a committee will meet to address the task. Sometimes I attend if my opinion is required, but for the most part they run pretty well without me.
The big one, the Kirk Session, meets every other month. Here in the Kirk of Scotland, people are elders for life. Where I came from they would serve three year terms. What I appreciate about a life sentence are two things: the sense of history and the collective wisdom.
Meetings are opened with prayer; not a perfunctory prayer, but a call to worship type of prayer. Then we sing a hymn. The first item of “business” is to appoint a “prayer secretary.” The prayer secretary’s role is to follow the meeting with a sense of spiritual discernment. At the end of the meeting, the prayer secretary offers his or her observations on the meeting, which forms the content of the closing prayer. At the close of the service, er meeting, we recite together the words of a benediction.
In seminary a professor was fond of reminding us, “Preaching the Word, is the Word.” The idea being that the act becomes the substance. Why not with meetings? Attending the committee on mission and ministry is part of the mission and ministry. Spirit informs form. So far it seems to be working out well enough. The straight rows of chairs have moved into semi-circles. It’s a start.
Take Care – John Mann