Monday, 23 March 2009

hit the ground kneeling (1)

I heard Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, speak at an area clergy study day about a year ago. He explained that as part of his job he gets to see lots of parish profiles; job descriptions for churches seeking a new vicar. Many of them say they want a vicar who is going to hit the ground running but what + Stephen wants is someone who is going to hit the ground kneeling!

Hit The Ground Kneeling is the name of + Stephen's latest book. It’s a small book, only 81 pages, but covers some big issues connected with Christian leadership. I opened the book as I started a train journey today and given its length thought I could read about half of it before reaching my destination. However, the book opens with the suggestion in the introduction that even though it is a little book it is a book to be read slowly. So with that in mind I read the first chapter Jumping Off The Bandwagon.

The basic premise of the first chapter is that a key skill in leadership is listening.
'More than anything else the wise leader, the leader who values the contributions of others and is prepared to let things happen at the right place, is someone who dares to listen….. And good listening takes time'.

I finished the chapter and wondered what to do next to occupy my journey. I’d left my Ipod at home; there was Tom Wright’s book Surprised By Hope which I have been working my way through or some papers I could read. And then I thought: why don’t I spend the rest of the journey putting into practice what I have been reading? So I did and by the time I arrived at my stop I felt it had been time well spent. These words quoted by + Stephen provided particular food for listening and reflection:

'The central question is, are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look upon God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?...... Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the Incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there source for their words, advice and guidance. Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them.'
Henri Nouwen. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.

Seems obvious and surely we should take this as read but reading is one thing, putting it into practice is a different matter.

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