Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. One partner gets furious, the voice raises in volume and pitch. The other partner shuts down and retreats, and the pattern is danced over and over and over again; that is until one of the parties makes a change in the dance step.
Churches are no different. Many of us come from active involvement in other churches where we learned patterns of behaviour that we expect to find in our new church home. Trinity is essentially a new Mission congregation and we haven’t had enough time together to establish our pattern of dance steps. However we do need to be aware of a common dance step in our past experience. That pattern is The Old Triangle Dance. You can read about it in Chapter Eleven of Canon Neal Michell’s book “Beyond Business as Usual.”
In The Old Triangle Dance, one member, who has a complaint about another, goes to a third party to gain leverage (power) to get things resolved the their way. This has the tendency of making the third party into a lightning rod if others in the congregation catch on that they are open to receiving complaints. Traditional lightning rods are Senior Wardens, Junior Wardens, Vestry members, Office Staff, and any priest or deacon who can be induced to accept lightning strikes.
Just for the record, our parish leadership is being trained about responding to The Old Triangle Dance, and our Vestry is studying Canon Michell’s book. None of us want to wrap ourselves in aluminum foil and stand in the back yard waiting for a storm.
Well, what do you do if you have an issue? First, and most constructive, avoid the third person approach, and go directly to the person you are concerned with. Second, if you go to one of our leadership team they will be very happy to offer you the opportunity to speak directly to person you should be talking to. Third, try to sort out what’s really important. Bear in mind that some things are not worth getting worked up about. Didn’t like a hymn? You might be surprized. If I picked the hymn, and it didn’t work; I may have ended up not liking it either.
There is one very essential key to communication within churches, and that is love. When power and control come in the door of the church, love goes out the window. Remember that you are loved by the One who gave himself for you. Remember that he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”