“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Friday, September 14, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Meetings, Meetings, Meetings....

1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.

Depending on the meeting, I am usually happy if it gets cancelled - it's like "found" time. I can suddenly do something else I really need to do, even if that something else is sit and have a cup of tea. However it is an important meeting from which I hope to gain direction for some next step then I feel frustrated if it is cancelled. Otherwise I view meetings as a necessary fact of life. They are a means to an end, whether that end is community building (ie the MOMs group meeting) or discernment/decision making. But I try not to have more than one or two night time meetings a week. And usually I can manage this. So, in that regard I don't seek them out.

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business? I always have some amount of fellowship, beverages and light food, time for conversation and checking in, and prayer. I always like to start my meetings with prayer. My vestry meetings (the governing board) always begin with snacks, since some folks come straight from work, then Bible study, check in (a short, how was your day) and prayer, then business. We eat and talk at the same time. I like the check in - how the day has gone for everyone - because it gives me a snippet of where the emotions are. This is especially important for our prayer time, we can hold them in prayer, but also for decisions we may need to make. Someone who is exhausted from a difficult day may be challenged by some of the decisions we have to make. Years ago I had a vestry member for whom this was true and understanding where she was emotionally helped make meetings flow more smoothly.

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area. I am generally fine leading meeting, especially if I have planned them. I work pretty well with groups and have a lot of experience with group dynamics. Of course some dynamics can catch me off guard, so to speak, and then I have to do extra work to keep us on track. I've had some nasty meetings in the past, with one person deciding to argue against anything I proposed, mostly for the sake of arguing. (Same person as above). She had major authority issues with women...once I realized that I began to have the male "wardens" make the important proposals, the ones the were really vital to the life of the congregation. The wardens and I would meet a week before the meeting, plan the meeting and who would say what and create a strategy where we were cohesive team. Then these men would make the proposals in the meeting. With this process the woman was far less reactive and the work got done.

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format? Lots of them. They are helpful, a lot of people can meet and talk and get things done. But, if you have never met the people it is odd to speak to "faceless" people. It is a challenge to read emotions and responses when you can't see folks.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended. Oh, geez. One was my first "annual parish meeting." My husband and I were new to church life, we'd been attending for about 10 months. The annual meeting is where churches review the year just past, make decisions for the year ahead (pass the budget, etc) and elect the governing officers for the year. This particular meeting was fraught with anxiety. People were really upset with the priest. He was part time and many felt he was not doing his job well. True, it seems he had made some poor choices in what he would do with his time and what he would not. For instance one man was livid that the priest had not visited his dying wife while she was in the hospital ten years ago. At various points in time quite a few people were screaming. They wanted this priest to resign. Now my experience of this priest was very different. He "brought" me into the church, taught me the ways of the Episcopal Church, accepted me in all my oddities of new age thought and fear of fundamentalist Christianity. Still, I understand the hurt being expressed by parishioners and the priest's struggle to meet full time needs in a part time position. He had made some bad decisions. So. that was my introduction to business life in the church.

I have also been in some large meetings, thousand some odd people, for our Diocesan Convention. Before us were several potentially contentious resolutions. I was braced for an all out fight. But somehow the Holy Spirit took over, the debates were heart-felt, sincere, honest, but not vitriol. It was amazing. And some great work got done.