Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A first...

This past week or so, my mother attended her first voters meeting in my home congregation. She has been a member of this congregation since 1950, when she was instructed as an adult, prior to marrying my father. For nearly all of those years since, the voters were only male, mostly her relatives by marriage. A few years ago the voters were opened to women but hardly any attend. When I asked why she was not going, since she had never been shy about her opinions on things, she indicated that was sure it would be dull and boring and she could predict what just about everyone who attended would say on this or that, so why should she go? She was not planning on attending this week. It was just that the roads were not good and since my dad and my brother were going to stay for the meeting after church, she felt like maybe she should not venture out on her own. So she went to a voters meeting. Her big surprise? That the men there seemed to have such a good time, that there was some joking and laughing, and that was not what she had expected.  She could not recall what was spoken about or decided upon but then this was not a meeting born of a contentious spirit or which required a painful choice.  They had a new Pastor and folks were pretty content.  It was not always that way and there will be times in the future when things will not be like this, but for that Sunday, for that first meeting, mom was surprised...

Sometimes folks are disappointed when they come to church meetings.  Perhaps it is the expectation that narrow minded people govern in the church and that every meeting is about as exciting or as enjoyable as pulling out a nose hair.  Perhaps it is the idea that most meetings proceed from great unsolvable problems and that most of the time church leaders spend together is trying to fix what cannot be fixed.  Perhaps it is the fear that most church meetings have money on the agenda -- not simply how to spend it but where to get it when you don't have it and you need it because you are in a crisis situation about this or that.  Perhaps it is the assumption that meetings are attended by those who have big egos and the main part of the meeting is either massaging those egos or wrestling them into corners when they come out in fighting mode.  Perhaps it is the hope that these meetings have great and pious items to deal with, that they are handled by great and pious people, and that as lofty as this is, it is probably about as boring or as dull as counting cross stitches.  I see it often on the faces of newly elected folks.  They did not know what to expect, they had a few thoughts about what they might encounter, and what they ended up finding out is that the average meeting has a little bit of everything mentioned above -- and, if they are lucky, a whole lot of self-deprecating humor by folks who know that with man all things are impossible but with God all things are possible... even more than than that, they are probable...

Maybe mom might try another one.  We can only wait and see.  At age 80 some folks never tire of trying new things...


Dixie said...

Good for your mom! And I am glad she had a good first experience. My own conclusion after many years of voters' meeting is that I would rather have a root canal. Today I feel the same way about parish council meetings. But I go nonetheless. In life there are things that need doing even if we don't want to do them. And these meetings, boring, painful, disappointing as they can be are important in developing relationships and learning to love one another.

Anonymous said...

At the age of 85 my mother is on
the evangelism board and is a lay
lector in worship services in an
urban parish. She reads the OT
lesson and Epistle lesson with great
clarity and devotion.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

The key to keeping voters meetings from turning into the quarterly blood-letting is to have competent lay leadership who know how to run a meeting, i.e., setting an agenda, doing their due dilligence concerning the business to be discussed and setting the tone for the meeting. Also it is important that voting members understand the purpose of a voter's assembly, too often it is taken as an opportunity to ambush the pastor about some issue that would be better for everyone's sake if were discussed in private. Or it is also taken over as a clearing house for every gripe and complaint from certain individuals.

Lutheran Chronicle said...

Conflict at meetings is not always a bad thing -- it means everyone's head is in the game, and that people are passionate about the discussion. Many psychology experiments over the years have shown that a bit of conflict is the very thing that is needed to form the smartest group decisions.

Anonymous said...

The secret to peaceful voters
meeting is the location. When the
voters assembly is held in the
CHURCH NAVE the focus is on the Lord.
You would be surprised how nice
people speak here as opposed to some
church basement. It seems like
everyone is on their best behavior
as they sit in the parish pews in the
nave. Try this location once and
you will never go anywhere else.