Ok: I confess- there was something that was perhaps less pure about giving up Beavers.
A few former leaders of uniformed organisations in this village say that by the time they gave up, they had grown resentful of the minority who they felt were expecting them to be unpaid childminders.
I don’t think I really felt like this, but towards the end, the effort of finding helpers to give up even one hour of their time became too hard. In the end, I got tired and thought ‘I have done enough- I really don’t need this. If you are not able to even help a little, I can push myself no further.’
I am not proud of this feeling: maybe it was a sign that I had got too tired. Maybe that is something that afflicts all volunteers after a while. At that time, it is a good idea to withdraw, rest and see what else arises.
I’ve found that a struggle- if you believe in a Big Story that talks about someone laying down his life for you, your modus operandi is to do likewise. You can hear ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ without picking up the implied idea of….so do you actually love yourself then?
Something will arise: as a member of the Scouting committee said ‘Some people have ‘volunteer’ stamped on them- you have.’
When I first started off, I asked the minister who was sent to mentor me how he avoided taking on too much. I was expecting sage advice about how to respond to need, when to step down or how to balance so many competing demands. Instead he said to me ‘I moved’.
Whilst one can never say ‘never’, I doubt whether I will ever be in the Methodist system again and have to move across vast tracts of the country at a whim. I’m glad about that, but that leads to another issue: how do you stop doing what you have done- how do you step down?
I still do not know, but yesterday I stepped down from leading my local Beaver Scout colony. I had led/been involved in leading it for 7 years. The Colony is now suspended: we do not have the leaders left to run it.
It was necessary to step down: I had felt I had done enough, I increasingly had no energy and our circumstances had changed so much that increasingly I ‘busked it’- I felt I wasn’t offering a proper experience.
But still: I am not the kind of person to step down; I always want to be involved and feel deeply uneasy about the standard middle class gig- you take your kids to innumerable activities but never really get involved as others do that for you. Although I can look back at a great time and helping to form so many kids, there is still the feeling of guilt: I could have kept going for just a few more months (actually I couldn’t).
Hoping to live in one place for a long, long time means I am going to have to learn how to take things up…and then lay them down without being forced to.
But it is not easy…
I missed an evening meeting this week. I had been out a lot, one of my sons is requiring multiple family taxi trips in his quest to play for every cricket team in Yorkshire and….
I spent over 15 years going to meetings in the evening: usually 3-5 evenings every week. It was possible to cut back on what I did during the day to make up for this time- often that did not happen.
Towards the end, I found this harder: especially if I was chairing them. My concentration started to dip earlier & it took longer and longer to decompress before I could sleep properly. After one traumatic meeting a couple of years ago, I realised something had to change before I broke. September and February/March (the peak time for evening meetings in Methodism) now feel so lovely.
I read on a website called ‘ex pastors’ about how long it takes for ‘ex pastors’ to adapt to not being the minister of a church. I have found that to be true: some of the ‘oughts’ take a long time to go.
I am learning that self care is not selfishness- I can’t do what I do for others without looking after myself. Plus one of the bonuses of what I do now is that I don’t have to do anything in the evenings: so if I am giving up my time I have to see it as a worthwhile event.
I think it was always so for my age cohort outside of church ministry. I latterly began to see it (in some of the most mind numbingly dull meetings I would hear the lament ‘why won’t younger people come to meetings like this?’- I stifled the urge to say ‘I only come as I have to-I don’t really want to be here’) & now I guess I am one.
I guess I could call this the ‘power of community’, but it struck me that all of the leaders of the Scouting movement in this village and a good proportion of the assistants are part of the group of us who drink every Friday in ‘The Bay Horse’ (one of the incredibly good watering holes in this village). As far as I know, only one of us had been active in the Scouting movement at any time before the first few of us began to meet up on an ad hoc basis over 7 years ago.
Scouting was never preached about when we met, nor do I recall anyone preaching ‘you should do this- we need leaders’; it just seemed to happen.
Maybe if it something you like doing, that you get a lot out of, that is visible and seems to involve giving to others you don’t really need to preach to others to get involved: they see it as something that is possible. Of course, you’d have to get close to those ‘others’ so they didn’t seem like ‘others’ any more.
Next up: submit my bar bills for the last 7 years to Group Scout HQ…
Normally on Monday nights I help to lead Beaver Scouts in our village.
6pm-7pm in ‘church house’; 18 boys aged 6-8 running around, being noisy and having fun. Exhausting, but I love it.
‘Help to lead’ is partly true: we are a team. However, this year I am the leader after 5 years of being the assistant. I did think of stepping down: finished being a minister in the village, new job, moving house, kids left scouting movement etc etc Plus all our life changes have left me tired.
However, I continued: partly because I love it, partly because the former leader is moving on and partly as I love kids work and I don’t get to do it in my current role. Maybe also…well this sounds sanctimonious….I believe that if you live in a place you have to give something back & a ‘busy middle class life’ isn’t all about just ferrying your kids to different places and basically just ‘using’ and not giving (gosh that sounds preachy and judgemental).
I do love it…but that doesn’t stop me collapsing and wanting a large gin afterwards.
I remember chatting with a Rev a few years back about ‘all age’/ ‘family’ services. He didn’t like them and did not feel able to do them. I immediately admired his candour.
I have gradually grown to like them. I don’t like ‘gimmick’ for the sake of it and a sizeable minority of books that give advice I haven’t found helpful. Children/ young people are people (the clue is in the breathing…) and most can spot being patronised/talked down to and not being engaged. Similarly: if you want to have a kids funtime- don’t do it in churches- other places do it much better.
Actually, more than ‘like’, ‘love’- they take so much longer to prepare than other acts of worship (mainly as I am wary of the aforementioned ‘gimmick’ for the sake of it), but the sense of engagement…and even of worship is huge.
This morning I am to do my ‘last’ parade service. The ultimate all age service- you are there as your Beaver/cub/scout/rainbow/brownie leader tells you to be (and you may not want to be). You are not really sure about ‘church’ and you don’t want to hang around. Children and their families, having to work hard for a hearing and miles away from church? What’s not to love?
And I may never lead one again whilst being in pastoral charge of a church….
I expect to be uttering this in the early hours of the morning.
Today I have been ‘conned’ into going on our first ever Beaver Scout sleepover- I leave today early in the morning and I get to leave early tomorrow on account of the day job… So I don’t get to tidy up or deal with tired and overexcited kids. I do have to try and calm down excitable 6-8 year old boys who are never attentive at the best of times.
In the run of events I have had over the last 2 months it is something I could have done without; I crave some time and space!
However…..I can remember when I was offering for the ministry, visiting all of the ministers in an area and asking them what they did for a hobby and what they ‘gave’ to their communities outside their normal work. In hindsight- a life outside the Christian bubble has always seemed important to me. They did a diverse range of things- perhaps I was impatient and wished they did more….. however, now I am ‘in’ it can be hard to ‘do’ more.
I do like it though; especially in a village- when I am ‘off’, I never really am. But I generallylove that. Plus, loads of other people have done the hard work for this- all I have to do is turn up and be the Bez to their Happy Mondays (look it up on wikipedia…).
But someone just remind me of this tomorrow when I have had 30 mins sleep…
On Sunday, I saw the Olympic Torch. Not in the streets, but in someone’s house. One of the people who had carried it that day called around to the house where I was.
Ever the opportunist, I asked if she would come to Beaver Scouts the next day and she did. A room of 6-8 year old boys who were unbelievably noisy, worse than they had ever been, were suddenly transformed into an uncanny silence and an almost religious devotion as they each got a chance to touch it.
Rebecca, 14, let me take her picture with the torch and her dad said I could post it to the 95th most popular Christian blog. So here it is!
I was at a Remembrance Sunday service a few days ago. I was not involved as such apart from co leading the local Beaver Scout troop. Always interesting, particularly as most of them have no awareness or live contact with a church.
One of the boys picked up a Bible from the pews (6-8 year old boys are relentlessly curious about anything. Saying ‘don’t touch’ means that they will) and started to look at the pictures. One saw a picture of a nativity scene and turned to me really excited ‘Look- there is a picture of Christmas in here: what’s that doing?). So I told him and showed him where he could find the story.
This post Christian world…