Churches face crises. Communities of faith find ourselves at the crossroads of many issues over time, and occasionally a dilemma digs so deeply that a good outcome – either way we go – does not seem possible.
It was in the midst of one of those corporate conundrums a number of years ago that I drove myself across town to the office of my friend, Joyce Williams. Joyce was a leader in our church, Chair of Personnel, a woman at least thirty years ahead of her time regarding the issue of women in leadership. She was stronger, more caring, more compassionate, more level-headed, more competent and more effective in this role than anyone I had observed, woman or man.
Going to see her, I was in a tizzy. Things were so bad at the church house downtown that the hourly anxiety and chaos had become unbearable … as it had been for the past six months. Top ministerial leadership was in an unbridled brawl against the lay leadership of the church, and it was not pretty.
Stumbling into Joyce’s office that day, I plopped down heavily on her office furniture and pled with her for wisdom and insight. I was a a wreck.
“Joyce, what am I supposed to do? What does the congregation and music ministry expect from me at this point? What do you expect from me? This is insane!”
From her chair next to mine, she looked at me calmly through her glasses and said with a firm, yet almost smiling countenance in mezzo piano, “Strong leadership.”
I shot back, “Okay, well, I figured that, but what does that mean?”
“It means we need strong leadership,” she calmly repeated.
“Yes, but I’m confused by how I provide strong leadership in the vortex of this tornado.”
“Deep down you know, and you will continue to know as this thing plays out. Give us your best and most thoughtful strong leadership.”
I didn’t get from Joyce what I wanted that afternoon. But as it turned out, she gave me exactly what I needed. Courage.
In the days and weeks that followed – and indeed in the months, years, and decades beyond that meeting – I can always regain my center when I remember Joyce’s face and eyes. I can still hear her strong, firm, feminine voice.
After thinking it over for a while, most of us know what “strong leadership” means for us in our ministries today.
What do our choirs and faith communities need? What are teenagers hoping to find in their choir director? What are our congregations, governing councils, and lay leaders hoping and praying to see in us?
Let us think, pray, struggle, communicate, and collaborate. Then, let us go forth from this place and give …