Tuesday, 19 May 2009

re-training or re-framing?

Yeah OK, I haven't blogged for over a week, but coming back from sabbatical (even if it is only part one) is dis-orientating and I've already nearly missed one meeting - mainly due to my not believing the right time was in my diary! I’ve had a few conversations with different people about, what could loosely be called, ‘re-training’. It’s word, which is being bandied around a fair bit – mainly, I think because the Anglicans are using it quite consciously and freely. It amuses me that the state church can talk openly about such a provocative issue, but the rest of us whisper in the corner. It is after all an emotive subject and I’ve already had some responses from people who have heard me say something I don’t think passed my lips, but have drawn the implication I’m suggesting pastor-teachers have had their day and we need something totally new – and they, by implication, are useless and best placed on the great scrap-heap. Now, firstly, I have not intended to imply such things even though I am increasingly conscious (we had a good discussion after some challenging MR interviews today) we need some new models and have to re-think aspects of equipping for ministry. Second, however, I don’t believe either we’ve got everything wrong for the past X number of years, nor does God call call people to the kind of in-built limited useful life-span most modern appliances have. For such reasons I’ve started talking about ‘re-framing’ as opposed to ‘re-training’. My critics (some of them my friends) will say this is just me being trendy – and I have to say, now I’m the ripe age of 50, bring it on because ‘trendy’ at 50 I’ll accept as a compliment! However, Gerard Kelly shared a great illustration when I was in Rome (oh dear there he goes again), which has spoken t me in a number of ways and encourages me to keep using the ‘re-framing’ word.

He talked about his visit to Collioure, in Southern France. Collioure is a significant place in the development of what became known as Fauvism – a group of 20th. century artists of whom Henri Matisee and Andre Derain are the most notable examples. They emphasised strong colour and painterly qualities over the representational or realistic values in Impressionism. To illustrate this – in Collioure, they have set up a Fauvism art trail where you can look through an empty frame – see photo. Basically (I really feel I must go) you look through the frame and ask yourself the question ‘what do I see’? What the artist sees and what we see are both really ‘there’, but …. Well, some will say that’s modern art for you.

Re-framing ministry, however, has much to commend it because the huge challenge, we have yet to rise to sufficiently, is the reality that the contexts of UK ministry have shifted enormously within such a short period of time. Matisse and his ilk didn’t stop painting because they saw things differently, nor did they turn their back on the skills they’d already acquired. They were, however, differently expressed. We have confused leadership with ministry too long, but arguments such as I’m a minister, not a leader, may be true, but society and the church and most other things have changed – so must we.

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