“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the title of the final episode of MASH – the TV show about the Korean War which ran longer than the war itself!
And so I come to write a final column as I sign off as General Secretary, having perhaps run longer than I should have (or not having run enough, depending on how you look at it!).
Let me say up front that I am incredibly honoured by the opportunity to have served the church in this role for six years. It also has been one of the most frustrating and challenging six years in my ministry. I have found it hard to get things done but, equally, I am sure that others have been frustrated by things I have done or left undone (a prayer of confession?).
I have also learned things along the way (see my top 10 tips below). Plus, here’s some other advice to my successor and, perhaps, to other ministers:
- Make sure you have a regular day off, and an extra day off now and again.
- Take your full compliment of holidays.
- Have a retreat and regular quiet days.
- Use your study leave — attend a range of courses.
- Go to conferences and teaching days as required.
- Participate in the life of the wider church – attend Presbytery and Synod meetings, serve on committees as called.
- Read widely; stay up-to-date with theological thinking.
- Have a hobby.
- In the few remaining days during the year, after answering all your emails, do the remainder of your work.
The reality is that in this role I am constantly reminded that the people of this Synod are made in God’s image. I just needed to look harder at some of them!
It is true also that no other role in ministry has involved me in the highest and lowest points of people’s lives — sometimes in the same afternoon. As I leave, I am aware that I need a very secure vault for all the special things people have entrusted me with.
May God continue to bless the Uniting Church in this Synod — people of God in the midst of all God’s people.
Andrew’s Top 10 Tips for Successful Ministry
- If you want something to thrive, threaten to abolish it.
- The one time you answer the phone in an amusing way will be the one time you wish you hadn’t.
- There will be conflict in the church and we all need a strategy to deal with it. The Body of Christ is made up of human beings, after all. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t make it easier.
- The Church’s preferred communication style is osmosis and telepathy.
- The contents of some cupboards and filing cabinets in the Synod are a mystery, one not to be explored without prayer and fasting.
- Most Church problems are sorted out in the car park afterwards, by the people who know. Often the original meeting is not worth having, though we do enjoy the talking.
- Lots of stuff in the job is the same as other people’s jobs. It is important to remember what is unique to your calling and to make time to do it — praying for people is a good start.
- The length of any Church discussion about finance will be in inverse proportion to the amount discussed.
- Not everyone will think you are important.
- Some people can only survive if they are complaining. Complaining back to see what happens, is not a fruitful strategy.
The General Secretary, Rev. Dr Andrew Williams