Pete's word really strikes a chord with me because when I was at seminary I had this recurring sense that I was tying myself to the mast of a sinking ship. This was a rather half-baked, joking thing but it has stuck with me and recent events in the Anglican Church of Canada, the US and, now, my homeland, New Zealand, have done little to help me lay this uncomfortable image to rest.
Nonetheless, I love sailing ships. I've never been on one on the water, but I have read the Hornblower novels three times and have just finished Patrick Obrian's Jack Aubrey series (the source the of Master and Commander flick). Sailing ships float all through my imagination.
So I was particularly intriqued when I read the following in David Pytches' book, Leadership for New Life (Hodder & Stoughton, 1998).
. . . Some leaders are not mature enough to see that when the wind catches the sail you still have to keep a hand on the tiller to steer the ship and keep it generally on course. You also have to keep trimming your sails to catch the wind, not controlling the wind but the sails. Then there is all the difference between controlling the sails to keep the wind out of them and controlling the sails enough to allow the wind to catch them. 102I thought this a brilliant description of my job as parish priest. Pytches also wrote:
The leader is always praying, looking at his church, looking round his church, and looking to his church for vision. 56Patrick O'Brian describes how Captain Jack Aubrey would have himself rowed around his ship so he could see how she looked and lay in the water so he could adjust the trim and the rake of the masts to catch the wind his sails most effectively.
A few years ago, while ruminating on vision and direction in preparation for our parish annual meeting I had this vision of St Barnabas as a sailing ship. Each sail was a ministry. To make the most of the wind of the Holy Spirit each sail had to be fulled crewed and set.
All this to say Pete's Tanker resonates with that, only with nasty, smelly, oily, noisy engines!