A comment was made about our church services a few weeks ago where I was called “Our Harry Potter.” I will confess (blush, blush) that I have very little understanding of what that comment means. I have not read Harry Potter, although my nieces and nephews have, and explained the books to me (with great joy!). Still, I have had to “punt” dinner conversations that turned in Harry’s direction. I can usually apply a little theological education to the themes raised–and I can handle the rolling eyes of the children I love.
I have to say that there is something attractive about being referred to as a title character of a best-selling saga. What I like most of the reference is the fact that Harry is learning, is building relationships that last, and is growing in skill. I think, too, of his desire for a correct assessment of situations, what we call in organizing knowing “the world as it is.” Being powerful is great. but understanding how much power and how little power we have is an invitation to grow greater power through solidarity with others. And that works for me, as the leader of a religious community. I need to be humble about the kind of influence we have on the world today just because of our theological, ethical and moral convictions. Our faith asks great things of us and proposes greater things for the world–and without healthy humility, we can be so arrogant.
I remember when I was leaving my ministry in Boston, one community leader talked about the work I did as President of an important congregation-based community organization, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. That leader hoped I wasn’t offended when she called me not Frodo (of Lord of the Rings), but Samwise Gamgee. She said that I was willing to let other people appear in the title role, that we encouraged other people to grow in their leadership capacities, and were the strong, loyal and committed companions to those who were called to carry “the Ring.” And when necessary, I accepted the fact that I might need to bear the burden of the Ring when the acknowledged leaders were unable so to do.
That is, to me, what skillful and faithful ministry seeks to be about. To intuit the gifts of people and share that intuition with them; to acknowledge and nurture their leadership of our community and its liberal and liberating mission; to accompany people in their leadership and especially in their growth; and to be grateful for all that we accomplish together.
I’m not sure what of this is about the wizardry of faithful relgious leadership, and what is about the virtue of loyalty. Both, I think, are needed in building Beloved Community. But I am so thankful to be able, in my daily life, to touch the lives of people who are trying to make meaning with their own lives and with their families and public relationships, and even the wider world. This work of redemption can be a sacred and fulfilling labor. And all in anticipation of a New Year, just hours away . . .