Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Church Committee - The Mythic Personae

There are, it is true, many types of Church Committee - from the Anglican PCC to the Circuit Stewards Meeting, to the Cabal that just knifed the last Independent Baptist Minister at Salem Chapel.

And we are all individuals. And every Church committee is uniquely and wonderfully And yet, arranged round a table, or in serried ranks facing the front - according to whether the Minister trained in the 1960s or 1890s, roles are adopted. In the same way that the Minister will adopt one of the two mythic roles about to be described, each of the mythic committee roles will also be adopted. And, through this current generation, the age-old battles - from Dionysus and Apollo to Jordan and Peter Andre - are recreated.

And so, on this Feast of Matthias - Patron Saint of people who get co-opted onto the Church Committee when the Treasurer resigns - let us discuss these mythic committee members. The archetypes, if you will, of their trades.

The Minister may adopt one of two Mythic Personae:

Fr Nose-Best will brook no opposition, stifle all dissent and cut short any discussion. Business will mostly be around the need for a pilgrimage somewhere or, with more evangelical circles, the need for increased discipling, or bromide in the Young Singles Group tea.  After Fr Nose-Best has declared the meeting closed and swept from the Committee Room, to go and terrify his or her spouse (for these Mythic Personae are open to all genders and none) or cower from his mother as appropriate, the Committee reconvenes, unminuted and in secret, to sort out the real business of the Church.

Rev Arundel-Day, on the other hand, is deeply committed to dialogue, democracy and interactivity. All viewpoints are welcome, and all points are valid. Including three hour diversions into the health of the speaker's dog, and detailed quotations from Church Committees from 3 or 4 decades ago. The viewpoints of people who died so long ago they were buried in the Churchyard before it was closed, as expressed through their children or children's children unto the fourth generation, will also be admitted as valid. When Rev Arundel-Day is in the chair, the ghosts of former ministers stalk the room, raising points of order and explaining how things were in their day. If the Lawyer questions whether communing with the dead in this way is wrong, the Rev will explain that s/he wouldn't like to jeopardise the ecumenical discussions with the Spiritualists. In the Rev's church, the meetings go on past midnight. But even people at the bus stop, who never go to Church, know their views have been taken into account.

Well, I've mentioned The Lawyer now....The Lawyer's job is to keep the Committee on the straight and narrow with (according to the denomination or tradition) Canon Law, Church Rules, the Scripture or the Boy's Big Book of Danger. This ensures every discussion ends up in the minutiae of faculties, John Wesley's Sermon no XLII, the Book of Judges etc. When informed s/he is wrong, the Lawyer will study the fine details later, with the aim of having decisions overturned on technicalities at the next meeting. If the Lawyer is on form, the corrections to Matters Arising on their own can take days.

The Voice of the People will object to most things, on the grounds that many people in the church are against them. TVOTP will frequently raise commonly held grievances, or new and exciting initiative that "people" want.  When challenged to name specific members of the Church that TVOTP is representing, TVOTP will politely point out that anonymity must be respected.

The Involver always wants to be involved. Any subcommittee going, any new initiative, any task to be carried out - the Involver is there, volunteering. Of course, the subcommittees rarely deliver, and the tasks rarely happen. The Involver is simply too busy. The Involver then feels sad, and gets onto another subcommittee to feel more wanted. But the Involver always tries.  Which is different to....

..... The Inert Helper. Who doesn't want anybody but the Inert Helper to manage anything within the IH's sphere influence. To this end, bright ideas and new initiatives will be gratefully received. The IH goes out looking for ways to help. In fact, says IH, I'm going to see the builder / printer/ Archimandrite tomorrow.  I'll sort it. Or one of the IH's relatives has just the right skill.
Six months down the line, when someone else does it out of frustration, IH is deeply hurt, and says it was top of the list. People just weren't patient. 

The Resigner is just waiting for the thing to resign over. You've no way of knowing what it will be. Could be the use of modern, or old, language in songs or liturgy. Could be the kids making a noise. Could be the plans to turn the Crypt into a Laser Maze. Could be anything. When the Resigner resigns, it will be dramatic. That's actually what the Resigner likes; the drama.  If you're the minister, just accept the resignation. The Resigner will then either withdraw the resignation - giving you all another chance before resigning again in a few weeks - or really go. If the latter, don't worry your committee is short of one Resigner. You'll get another one along shortly.
Very occasionally, the minister will turn out to be the Resigner. In which case you are blessed to live in interesting times.

Nismo, Slayer of Universes is the most potentially fun, yet also hardest work, of any Committee member. Nismo's ideal is a strong minister who agrees with Nismo. Unfortunately, all the strong ministers so far have disagreed with Nismo about everything.
Nismo is a rich and apparently inexhaustible supplier of agenda items and initiatives. The minister is held to account on everything that happens in church. Emails and letters are sent to the Bishop/Superintendent/ God. 
Nismo doesn't get any joy there.  So petitions are raised. Somewhere around the 3rd strong minister who doesn't agree with Nismo, the penny drops. There is, Nismo realises, a common factor in all of Nismo's bad relationships with ministers.
That's right. It's the congregation. Nismo realises that only two possibilities remain.  One is, if there is a vacancy, to evolve into the Resigner. Like Pokemon, Mythic Committee Personae can evolve. The other alternative is to candidate for the ministry. If Nismo is minister, things will be done right. The pastor, keen for a quiet life, will be an enthusiastic supporter, as well.

The Minister's Fixers are there to ensure the minister wins the arguments. Whatever anyone says - no matter how rational, and no matter how silly what the minister said, they will sit there - looking quietly supportive of the minister. If you win the argument, and one of the Fixers leaves early - just check your brake pipes. You remember what happened to Mabel? 

Double-Barreled quite often really does have a double-barreled name. But the Mythic Persona gets his or her title from an uncanny ability to shoot down any new idea the minute it takes flight. No respecter of the honour of the sport, any fledgling idea that breaks cover - even if it's only walking - is likely to get both barrels. What the Church doesn't need, in the view of D-B, is any new ideas. The old ones were bad enough. Why can't we just learn, and leave things as they are?

Everybody else just wants to help out, and get home before 10 o'clock. They rarely do. Get home, that is.


  1. Ouch, this brings back painful memories....

  2. Oops PCC meeting tonight, nay be distracted by people-type spotting

    1. Try not to call them out...

    2. I think I only voiced them in my mind....but one can never be sure with voices. Still, those of the PCC who aren't hard of hearing were probably asleep anyway, so no harm done.

  3. Need to forward this to our Vicar before the first meeting of our PCC next Monday Evening - or at least to the newbies.


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