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Serving the Parish – Martin Dudley & Virginia Rounding

September 9, 2018

It’s directed specifically towards Parochial Church Council (PCC) members. It covers: the mission and ministry of the PCC; Who should stand for the PCC? How to become a member (and what will be expected of you); the officers of the PCC and their responsibilities; the PCC meeting; working with others (the minister, churchwardens, etc); specific responsibilities of the PCC; the drafting, ownership and implementation of policies, issues likely to face PCCs in the future; troubleshooting, and the end of a period in office.

Included as appendices are useful reading lists, the actual legal framework and a great index.

I’ve been on four PCCs over 443 years and still learned a lot from this book.

There’s even a theology of PCCs in this otherwise practical book:

Anger is listed among the seven deadly sins. The sense that anger is a bad thing creates difficulties in managing it, so people repress it or try, ultimately ineffectively, to control it, or else they blow up. Anger, as one handbook on clergy stress says, prevents us from carrying out our best insights, jaundices our perspective (particularly towards certain people and issues) and, even when controlled, can communicate itself to others as simmering below the surface.’ In the work environment, we are exposed to all sorts of annoyances and irritations, and these give rise to anger, if they are not dealt with, or else they exacerbate existing anger.

The first person to be described as angry in Scripture is Cain, was very angry about Abel, and slew him. We can read of the an of Jacob, of Pharaoh, of Moses, of Saul and of David, and so on b as Robert Thurman says in his little book on anger (see note 52), the Jewish Bible the angriest person around seems to be Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Colu University, describes God as getting mad in the Garden of cursing the serpent, Eve, Adam and the ground. He is angry Cain, angry with human beings prior to the Flood, angry at tower of Babel, nice to Abraham, but gets mad about Sodom Gomorrah, and gets really mad with Pharaoh. In sum, says Th

he gets angry with people again and again. He gets angry on behalf Israel and sometimes he gets angry at Israel. He’s a real punisher. who was indoctrinated by sacred texts in the image of such a the model of ultimate reality personified could be forgiven if he thought that anger was an excellent energy and manifestation, as one was powerful enough to overcome the enmity such anger in others.

Certainly the Book of Common Prayer expresses a rather view of God. We are miserable sinners and God is Anger is listed among the seven deadly sins. The sense that anger is a bad thing creates difficulties in managing it, so people repress it or try, ultimately ineffectively, to control it, or else they blow up. Anger, as one handbook on clergy stress says, prevents us from carrying out our best insights, jaundices our perspective (particularly towards certain people and issues) and, even when controlled, can communicate itself to others as simmering below the surface.’ In the work environment, we are exposed to all sorts of annoyances and irritations, and these give rise to anger, if they are not dealt with, or else they exacerbate existing anger.

The first person to be described as angry in Scripture is Cain, was very angry about Abel, and slew him. We can read of the an of Jacob, of Pharaoh, of Moses, of Saul and of David, and so on b as Robert Thurman says in his little book on anger (see note 52), the Jewish Bible the angriest person around seems to be Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Colu University, describes God as getting mad in the Garden of cursing the serpent, Eve, Adam and the ground. He is angry Cain, angry with human beings prior to the Flood, angry at tower of Babel, nice to Abraham, but gets mad about Sodom Gomorrah, and gets really mad with Pharaoh. In sum, says Th

he gets angry with people again and again. He gets angry on behalf Israel and sometimes he gets angry at Israel. He’s a real punisher. who was indoctrinated by sacred texts in the image of such a the model of ultimate reality personified could be forgiven if he thought that anger was an excellent energy and manifestation, as one was powerful enough to overcome the enmity such anger in others.

Certainly the Book of Common Prayer expresses a rather view of God. We are miserable sinners and God is angry with us. The confession at Morning and Evening Prayer asks to have mercy on us, and asks him too to spare — that is, to from punishing — those who confess their faults. The Litany the Lord to ‘remember not our offences’ and to spare us, plead-‘spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most ious blood, and be not angry with us for ever’. If you want a y strong example of this conviction that the wrath of God will nsume sinners, then look towards the back of the Prayer Book, at Commination ‘or denouncing of God’s anger and judgements st sinners’. And the cry constantly goes up: spare us, have mercy us, enter not into judgement with us, turn thine anger from us. e Prayer Book comes into existence at the end of the Middle Ages, a period in which much hope and optimism departed from the Western Church. Some historians think that the Black Death of the 1340s, which dramatically reduced the population of Europe, cast a long shadow over Christian spirituality. It was seen as judgement, and the wrath of God had to be appeased. As the Church set out to do so, by penitential acts, by processions, litanies, psalm-saying and by offering masses, so the Reformers responded by stressing faith and grace and the Scriptures. The Reformation was supposed to remove any doubts that believers had about justification and salvation, but the Church of England preached the risk of impending destruc­tion, of the outpouring of the wrath of God. We might consider the extent to which this stress on a factor characteristic of the Old but not the New Testament was culturally conditioned, the product of experience, and we might wonder if it was a means of social control, of instilling morality, utilized by the unscrupulous Tudor state — yet we are left with a question that is theologically, spiritually and per­sonally significant, the question of the wrath of God.

Our first experience of anger is probably an angry parent. Chil­dren are inclined to push to the limits, doing what they have been specifically forbidden to do. What follows used to be, maybe still is, parental anger: ‘You-will make me very cross if you do that, if you go on doing that.’ It could be parental disappointment, an approach adopted in the 1970s by those who did not do anger: ‘I am very disappointed in you for doing what I asked you not to do.’ Reason­ableness replaces anger, though it might be a form of repressed anger. And if a child constantly pushes to the limit and beyond — what does the parent do then? Rage? Or seek counselling? Or turn to drink? Anger, when not irrational or displaced, is related to limits and the crossing of boundaries, to rules and their violation. Now when the law, in the person of a judge, deals with deliberate law-breaking, he or she may point to the cold-blooded calculated disregard for the law and for norms of civilized behaviour, and society’s anger is expressed in punishment and in the level and duration of this punishment. Anger is there, but it is in a way sublimated.

If God has, directly or indirectly, brought us into being, and is concerned — passionately concerned — about our well-being, and has provided us with direction and purpose and with certain rules and limitations, and we have ignored these, pushed to the limit and beyond, broken rules deliberately and without thought of the con­sequences, and put our lives and the lives of others and the future of all of us at risk, then one possible response for God the Creator, alongside disappointment and deep concern and maybe even a feel­ing of disempowerment, is anger and a desire to punish those who will not take telling.

This is not an analysis we will like very much. It puts us in the position of naughty human child faced by angry parent God. If we allow this view to dominate our faith, to shape our spirituality, to affect the way in which we relate to those in authority in the Church, then it generates a form of infantilism. When this child—parent approach dominates parish life then there is also a tendency to direct our complaints and problems upwards, to a higher parental authority, especially the bishop, rather than to deal with difficulties in a mature and responsible way.

When we talk of divine wrath we must always remember that we are talking about God, of whom the prophet says: ‘My ways are not your ways, says the Lord.’ In other words, God is different from us, and the language that we use is analogical, taking what we know about and applying it to what we know much less about. So we are struggling to describe our relationship, and one part of it is that we are a disappointment to God, who expects so much more of us because he has given us the gifts, the abilities, the powers that enab us to be god-like and we have perverted them and made, more once, hell on earth. More in sadness than in anger, God might beh the creation.

The language of wrath used to describe God, and the plea tone we adopt as we ask for pardon, may be figurative, but reality is that we fall short of the target and this failure is, to s extent at least, our fault. The failure covers personal and social tions, questions of the environment and the future and, because is our concern here, love of neighbour and our relationships with the Church. The psalmist suggests in a number of places that we address the relationship that this all-embracing failure creates, and further suggests that we might be sorry. And seeing that we are wrong and admitting we are, and realizing that such a failure at such a level has consequences, he suggests that we might ask to be spared the consequences, while seeking the grace to amend our ways. There should be no disjunction between our prayers, private and corporate, and our service of the parish on the PCC. We acknowledge, for example, in the Prayer Book Collect for the first Sunday after the Epiphany that we need divine aid ‘to perceive and know what things [we] ought to do’ together with ‘the grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same’. We know too that ‘all our doings without charity are nothing worth’ and that we need ‘that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues’ in order to achieve what is really of value in the life of the Church and parish. Anger does not promote the ‘bond of peace’, so how can we deal with it?

The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen found that he had to deal with anger during the seven months in which he was part of the Trappist community at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. Speak­ing with his mentor Fr John Eudes, Nouwen identified the features of anger:

I realized that my anger created restlessness, brooding, inner disputes, and made prayer nearly impossible. But the most disturbing anger was the anger at myself for not responding properly, for not knowing how to express my disagreement, for external obedience while remaining rebellious from within, and for letting small and seemingly insignifi­cant events have so much power over my emotional life. In summary: passive aggressive behaviour.”

Together Nouwen and Fr John Eudes produced five suggestions for dealing with this anger:

1 Allow your angry feelings to come to your awareness, and have a careful look at them. -Don’t deny or suppress them, but let them teach you.

2 Do not hesitate to talk about them, even when they seem to be related to very small or seemingly insignificant issues. If you can’t deal with anger over small things, how will you deal with a real crisis?

3 There can sometimes be good reason for anger. Talk about it. Find out whether it is unrealistic or disproportionate. Find out why you have responded so strongly.

4 Part of the problem might be generalization: a disagreement about a decision, an idea, an event, might make you angry with some­one, or with everyone.

5 Anger often reveals how you think and feel about yourself and how important you have made your own ideas and insight. If you re-centre on God, then you get a better idea of your own import­ance, or unimportance.

Anger reappears in Nouwen’s diary for the next month or so but then gradually disappears as he enters more into the life of the community and bothers less about his status as a ‘celebrity spiritual writer’. We can all use these suggestions but the difficulty is finding someone — a critical friend — with whom to share these feelings, someone who can be trusted and who can also provide some insight. William E. Hulme identifies two therapeutic approaches to anger: cathartic (let it out) and cognitive (change the way you think) — and an approach that combines them, involving identification of cause and appropriate expression of anger.’

There is plenty on the Web about anger and anger management, and the American Psychological Association site is particularly useful for its definitions and the strategies for keeping anger at bay, namely:

relaxation;

cognitive restructuring (changing the way you think);

problem-solving (acknowledging that not all anger is misplaced);

better communication (listen to what is underlying the anger);

using humour;

changing your environment.’

Redford Williams, an internist and behavioural specialist at Duke University Medical Centre, has developed a 12-step programme that can help people learn to deal with their angry emotions:

1 Monitor your cynical thoughts by maintaining a ‘hostility log’. This will teach you about the frequency and kinds of situation that provoke you.

2 Acknowledge any problems in coping with anger.

3 Seek the support of important people in your life in coping with your feelings and in changing your behaviour patterns.

4 By keeping your hostility log you are able to realize when and where you are having aggressive thoughts, so that when you find yourself in these situations you can utilise such techniques as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or thought-stopping, which can help you interrupt the anger cycle.

5 Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This will help you gain a different perspective. Keep in mind that we are all human beings, subject to making mistakes.

6 Learn how to laugh at yourself and see humour in situations.

7 Learn how to relax. Although you may have heard that expressing anger is better than keeping it in, remember that frequent outbursts of anger are often counterproductive and may alienate others.

8 It is also important that you practise trusting other people. It’s usually easier to be angry than to trust, so by learning how to trust others you are less likely to direct your anger at them.

9 Good listening skills improve communication and can facilitate trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions, reducing and possibly eliminating them.

10 Learn how to assert yourself. This is a constructive alternative to aggression. When you find yourself angry at another person, try to explain to them what is bothering you about their behaviour and why. It takes more words and work to be assertive than it does to let your anger show, but the rewards are worth it.

11 If you live each day as if it were your last, you will realize that life is too short to get angry over everything.

12 The final step requires forgiving those who have angered you. By letting go of resentment and relinquishing the goal of retribution, you will find the weight of anger lifted from your shoulders.’

We suggest that a PCC agenda should allow for time at the end of a meeting to look at what went well, what went badly, and why. This is particularly important if there have been angry outbursts and people have been hurt by what has been said or done. We must always re­member that this is a Christian body, a council made up of Christians; we may disagree with each other, but we should attempt to limit the damage caused by such disagreements. This is another of the re­sponsibilities that rests on all members and not just on the clergy.

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