Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Retreat with Roy Searle - retrospective

We've just had an excellent Ministers' Conference/Retreat with Roy. Roy is one of the founder leaders of the Northumbria Community, and also a Baptist minister. Roy is well known to many of us as a friend, and as I expected, he nourished our souls, informed our minds, and told a lot of memorable stories, some moving, some very funny. And we prayed.

Among many things that were said, he reminded us that pastoral ministry is not about running the church; that Sabbath is a gift that we can give to our Western consumerist society. He asked provocative questions, 'how is it with your soul?' and 'what are you and God working on at the moment?' He talked of the need for Speak Easys, where people can do just that. He encouraged us in a way of being with God where we don't set the agenda. He emphasised the need for integrity and authenticity. He told us of the mission statement of the church where he began in pastoral ministry, 'plodding hopefully in the right direction'. He led us in creative, thoughtful, non-driven worship.

The relaxed between-times at meals, refreshment breaks and at the end of the day, provided ideal conditions for making and nurturing relationships, and the space provided on Tuesday afternoon was particularly renewing. And just to add that the food at King's Park, Northampton was varied, plentiful, and very tasty. Kippers for breakfast, with a poached egg, was a real treat! Thanks Steve, and indeed all the staff who were extremely hospitable. So from my perspective, as well as the feedback I'm receiving, a good time, doing what it was meant to do.


Ben Fairhall said...

Hello, I'm visiting your blog from A Sideways Glance by Simon Jones (whose church I attend.) Roy sounds like his head and heart are definitely in the right place... The concept of Speak Easys particularly resonates with me. Can you expand?

I do, however, have one beef about the sort of conferences you eloquently describe; and that is the sheer frequency with which they occur. I know how valuable these sort of mini-breaks are for pastors (who have one of the hardest jobs in the country), but I do find it strangely ironic that, for all the talk of relationship-building, the modern church leader seems to spend almost as many days away from his regular people than he does serving them.

And of course, this is exacerbated greatly if he actually succeeds in his post, and develops a reputation for himself and the local congregation. Then he becomes a church 'consultant' and general globe-trotter, busily dreaming up eye-catching 'new initiatives' but rarely hanging around long enough to implement them.

I'm speaking very generally here, I know; and not in any way referring either to you or Mr Jones (much.) But continuity and simply being there is the key to relationship-building, in my opinion; and it's very obvious if it's missing.

Excellent blog, I will keep reading!

Geoff Colmer said...

Hi Ben! Thanks for your comment. Speak Easys are places where people can ask the question or make the comment that can't be asked or made in many of our other settings. In my last church we had an 'H' Group (in contrast to Alpha) where people were able to explore those things which weren't part of the territory for GSE's - 'good sound evangelicals'. This was an informal group and a closed group by invitation only , and there was something about the exclusivity that I had some discomfort about, but it served a purpose. I've heard of 'Agnostic Anonymous' groups where people really can address the hard issues without the agenda being conversion. I knew of a group of ministers who met as a 'Heretics Group' where they were free to speak the unspeakable. These are all variations on a theme, and Speak Easy, is similar I think.

Your remark about conferences is valid as a tendency. I have known a few ministers who seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time at conferences, suffering 'conferencitis'. Not only are they away a lot, but their congregations then get the latest input from the most recent event, which doesn't create a healthy diet. But I know some ministers who never receive the benefit of exposure to anything outside their local church, and this impoverishes their ministries.

I agree that continuity and simply being there are keys to effective ministry. I think it is what St Benedictine called 'stability'.

Ben Fairhall said...

The Speak Easy model sounds to me like something vital that has been missing from 'GSE' culture for a long time... and I can understand the perceived need for exclusivity, because the repression in many Christian communities as yet runs too deeply for anything more than a minority to be comfortable with (or even know how to 'do') fully open debate.

My pet theory as to why this is concerns the 'gladiatorial' style of evangelism which was so influential until recently, as exemplified by books like Evidence That Demands A Verdict. This has spawned a generation of Christians who may be highly confident when it comes to defending their beliefs from rationalist attack, but woefully deficient in the Emotional Intelligence that contemporary, relational mission would seem to require. The interactive elements which many churches are now introducing is helping to counter the trend; but tend to have a very narrow remit, and are sandwiched between other items in the traditional sunday itinerary.

Our church (I think it's a national programme) has recently introduced an event for children entitled Messy Church; and the title amuses me somewhat, because the work of psychological and spiritual healing is necessarily a very messy one indeed... Another reason it is still a rarity in the GSE culture largely defined by middle-class values.

Maybe the 'Emerging Church' is going to have to be a generally messier place all round... I certainly hope so.

Thanks for your comment... Very interesting!