Riverside Reflections, February 2012
Rev. Millie Rochester
Over the years, the image of geese flying in a “V” pattern has both informed and comforted me, especially as it relates to volunteer leadership. You may be familiar with the analogy: a single goose leads the way and eases the path for the rest by breaking through the headwinds. At the same time, the “followers” ease the leader’s path, thanks to the updraft of their beating wings. Occasionally, the leader drops back into the formation – becoming a follower, at least temporarily – and another flies to the forefront.
What an apt metaphor for shared leadership! It’s a vision that’s come to my mind every time I have served on Nominating Committees, as a lay leader in Oregon and a minister both in Florida and here. The same considerations have always prevailed.
Preparing for a meeting of the Nominating Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers of Canada, I review the names of my colleagues, considering their individual flairs, personalities and locales. I wonder what, of all the possibilities, would be most fulfilling for them; what they would most enjoy – not just what openings there are or what needs the organization has. It’s as if I’m searching for the perfect present for a person I care about in the deepest way – not even “as if” – for that is what I am, in fact, doing. Perhaps I will find something that person hasn’t even considered, and it will be a great surprise, as well as a gift! All of us on the Nominating Committee compare our thoughts and notes, eventually settling on the candidates we will ask to serve.
The same considerations prevail in congregational Nominating Committees. In his book Serving with Grace, the Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom writes that church leadership can serve as a spiritual practice, transforming it from a mere job into one of self-discovery. I especially appreciate his insights into the truth of our seventh principle, the interconnected web of all existence:
Work devoted to something greater than yourself lifts you out of the narrow sphere of individual concerns, enlarges your perspective, and provides context for the joys and concerns of your own life... It means working for and with a group of people who have intertwining needs, hopes, fears, and expectations, all to help fulfill a common mission that binds them together....Lay service means claiming your own strand of the interdependent web while honouring the needs of others. It means being a firsthand witness to the power of diversity united in a single mission.
We come to church for many reasons – to feel connected with something larger than ourselves, for a sense of belonging, and to deepen our spiritual lives, among other reasons. As the congregation’s Nominating Committee looks for just the right “match” for positions on the Board, and other committees showcase their work at the upcoming Committee Carnival, I encourage you to think about how leadership can be for you a spiritual practice; the purpose of which Scott Alexander, in his book Everyday Spiritual Practice describes as to “examine, shape, and care for your life – and the life around you – to achieve more wholeness, satisfaction, depth, and meaning.” I would love to know how you feel about this.