Monday, October 27, 2008

Non Omne Quod Sintillat aurum est

This painting is entitled "Transition". The reason why it is here is because it communicates the confusion that some transitions force on the people who have to go through them. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. Our community is presently in the throes of a magnificently mismanaged transition as these words are drummed unto the page. The process is now nearly four months along and we are wondering how much longer it is going to last.

The community that is suffering this is a Roman Catholic parish. Roman Catholics have a special kind of life. They belong to communities which are called "parishes". These communities are geographically defined to be accessible to a centralized church. The church of course has a pastor. Unlike their Protestant counterparts, Catholics do not get to hire the pastor following a serious recruitment and vetting process. What happens is that the incumbent pastor leaves and a replacement is chosen by the bishop and sent to the vacated position. Sometimes these transitions are smooth, sometimes they are not. The clash of personalities and management styles from the one to the next are sometimes rather tectonic. One of the good aspects of the system is that the members of the community can always say, "Don't look at me, I didn't vote for him." One of the nasty sides of the system is that everyone knows that the next six years (yes, six) are going to be VERY interesting.

The situation that we are observing these days is of the second kind. Pastor comes in and right off the top complains about the lack of income. Then of course, he proceeds to lay off his brightest and best because, of course, they are being paid the most. Then, of course begins the recruitment of volunteers to replace the professionals who have accepted the invitation to move on because the parish "can no longer afford your services."
This takes place rapidly and in a dictatorial way. The new man looks around, sees who comes to church, who speaks his language most fluently, asks a question or two and then invites the person to take charge of programs about which the new volunteer knows nothing. This goes on for a while before the participants in the programs start to realize that they are so confused that they can't see where they are going.
It's interesting to watch. Meetings get called with miniscule advance notice. Those who can come to the meeting have no idea about what the agenda is, or even if there is one. In one case a long time class group was confronted by the replacement of the teacher that they were accustomed to and the person in charge of the change did not appear to introduce the new person to the group. Great transition management! There are more stories about the shock treatment of bad transition management, but that would be too boring and repititious.

Money. Of course, money. New paint, new chairs, new decor and a remodel of sorts, not yet finished, in my opinion.

Finally, not a single clerical priest in the entire parish is fluent in the language that dominates the lives of 85% of the parish. So, the spiritual life of the community is being burnished by the material changes in the environment.

Meanwhile, education processes clippity-clop along. The management of documents required is foggy. Who knows, this whole enterprise is living on the promise that "the powers of hell shall not prevail against it." All we can hope for is that the holy remnant of Ezequiel will be around when the six year term comes to an end.