Sunday, 29 December 2013

December 29th 2013 - Leadership

from Rule of St Benedict, second part of chapter 64 (adapted for a female community)

Once she has been constituted,
let the Abbess always bear in mind
what a burden she has undertaken
and to whom she will have to give an account of her stewardship,
and let her know that her duty is rather to profit her sisters
than to preside over them.
She must therefore be learned in the divine law,
that she may have a treasure of knowledge
from which to bring forth new things and old.
She must be chaste, sober and merciful.
Let her exalt mercy above judgment,
that she herself may obtain mercy.
She should hate vices;
she should love the sisterhood.

In administering correction
she should act prudently and not go to excess,
lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust
she break the vessel.
Let her keep her own frailty ever before her eyes
and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.
By this we do not mean that she should allow vices to grow;
on the contrary, as we have already said,
she should eradicate them prudently and with charity,
in the way which may seem best in each case.
Let her study rather to be loved than to be feared.
Let her not be excitable and worried,
nor exacting and headstrong,
nor jealous and over-suspicious;
for then she is never at rest.
In her commands let her be prudent and considerate;
and whether the work which she enjoins
concerns God or the world,
let her be discreet and moderate,
bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said,
"If I cause my flocks to be overdriven,
they will all die in one day."
Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion,
the mother of virtues,
let her so temper all things
that the strong may have something to strive after,
and the weak may not fall back in dismay.
And especially let her keep this Rule in all its details,
so that after a good ministry
she may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard
who gave the fellow-servants wheat in due season:
"Indeed, I tell you, he will set that one over all his goods" (Matt. 24:27).

In reading the rule of St Benedict, I have been struck by how compassion, mercy, and kindness are interwoven into the rules. There is always a "bottom line", the point at which the Rule solidifies to an immovable steeliness.

Humility and virtue, learning and prayer are prime requisites, guiding principles, for leadership in the monastery. It is useless to try and puck out one sentence, one phrase in the writing above; everything is needful, none is surplus.

Actually, I started this post from reading the two blog entries which I have copied below, related to leadership in schools.  They have a lot in common with the Rule of St B.


h/t twitter:  Alex Quigley @HuntingEnglish 17h
: This much I know about resisting the misery of life in our schools...." ”. < The time of year for hope!
Great organizations have leaders who:
  1. Have mentors and coaches.
  2. Point out uncomfortable truths quickly, honestly, and compassionately.
  3. Live authentically. Fakers can’t be trusted. Trust is foundational to influence.
  4. Monitor and manage emotional states. Feelings impact performance.
  5. Expect results and don’t make excuses.
  6. Compare themselves with their potential, not others.
  7. Concentrate on people. Love is a leadership word.
  8. Clarify and narrow focus.
  9. Make others feel powerful. Employees in great organizations don’t say, “Things never change.”
  10. Love winning and compete aggressively.
  11. Talk and act humbly. Great leaders make others great. They’re never full of themselves.
  12. Engage with others without interfering.
  13. Ask “stupid” questions. They aren’t afraid to look stupid by not knowing.
  14. Prioritize culture building.
  15. Set direction but delegate decisions to those closest to the action.
  16. Hold themselves and others to high, agreed upon, standards.
  17. Have fun. Many leaders I know take themselves too seriously.
  18. Recognize, reward, praise, and honor others.
  19. Give back to the community. Generosity is normal, not rare, for leaders who build great organizations.
  20. Face forward by thinking, talking, and acting with the future in mind.
and then from the same blog at

Great leaders always:
  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Demand the truth.
  3. Act in the best interest of their organization.
  4. Get results through others.
  5. Celebrate the success of others.
  6. Challenge the status quo.
  7. Press into the future while honoring the past.
  8. Try.
  9. Receive criticism gracefully.
  10. Learn.
  11. Inspire.
  12. Improve.
  13. Encourage.
  14. Listen more than speak.
  15. Take responsibility.
  16. Show gratitude.
  17. Pursue clarity and specificity.
  18. Engage in self-reflection.
  19. Act in alignment with who they are.
  20. Rest.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Places to Visit - St Nectan's Glen

Here's a whole new category to add to this scrapbook of things that I want to try and remember.

This looks like such a glorious place. I have copied and pasted the rest of this post from the link below.

7. St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

Until the making of Sacred Wonders, I had never heard of St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. It is an astonishingly beautiful, even magical spot, like a fairy glen made real. The glen has been cut by water and erosion during who knows how many millennia. What greets the visitor now is a waterfall that drops around 20m into a natural bowl and then emerges through a circular hole cut by the endless stream. Moss and lichen cloak the sheer sides, along with precariously perched trees, so the whole place has a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere. Once revered by pre-Roman Celts, who venerated the spirit of the water, and later associated with the 6th Century Saint Nectan, it is still visited today by thousands of people from all over the world. The Arthur myth too has been bolted on and folk thereabouts believe the king and his knights came to the glen to be blessed, before heading out in search of the Holy Grail. Christians, Buddhists, pagans and curious visitors with no religious beliefs of any kind are drawn to the place to this day. Many leave little souvenirs of their visit - single coins wedged into tree trunks, old train tickets from the journey, photos and keepsakes of loved ones.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Eve 2013 - I AM

Reflection on Sermon at our church at the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve

I was sooo tired at this service, that I could barely listen to the sermon. In the end, I let myself off, and just held on to two points.

One is an old thought, but struck me afresh; how the I AM sayings of Jesus follow on from Moses' encounter with GOD at the burning bush;     

Image from Icon Reader.
found at


Exodus 3:1-15    Moses and the Burning Bush

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation."
I wonder what Jesus actually said - for the words "I AM" were too holy to be spoken aloud. Did he really say "Jehovah the Good Shepherd", or "Jehovah the Way"? If he did, then no wonder the Jews were shocked. As if English parents called their son "Jesus" - common enough in other countries, but definitely strange and shocking in England.
The other thing that struck me is that the vicar said that Jesus never said "I was born", but always "I came", or "I have come".
John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
It makes it clear that he comes from heaven, rather than just being born. 
There were other good things in the sermon, connected, linking, expanding, illustrating how Jesus IS God, and has come to save us, now and for always, but I just stayed with these two thoughts, resolving to get them concreted into my mind before they vanished under everything else that happens at Christmas.
Emmanuel. God, with us, always, everywhere.   

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sunday 1st December 2013

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and therefore the beginning of the Church Year.

How often have I wanted to just start again? The children that I teach are always asking "can I start again" when they make a mistake in their pieces. Sometimes I let them, other times it is important for them to learn to carry on from where they made the mistake.

I'm lucky: I get three chances to start again.

 January the 1st is the obvious one.

"This year I am going to...."         yeah, yeah, yeah.

The start of term in September is an opportunity for me to begin again, as a teacher.

"This year I am going to..."         yeah, yeah, yeah.

Today, the beginning of the "real" run-up to Christmas, I get another opportunity. This time it is a bit different. Advent is not about Making a New Start. It is about preparation, listening, waiting, bringing yourself to a state of readiness, for the New Start.

Today I have reached the totally zonked stage of tiredness - the past week has been very demanding for all sorts of reasons, mostly good reasons, but that doesn't stop it being a series of hard-pressed days.

The weekend has been "full-on" as well - I was teaching a music workshop for most of Saturday, and then "working" for both church services this morning - playing the organ, and then taking one of the children's groups. It's just how things tend to happen - like buses - all at once.

Now, it is half past three. (That's started an "ear-worm" - one of the djembe rhythms I teach goes "half past THREE! have-a-cup-of TEA!). We're having coffee, and I have lit the Advent Candle, and we shall have PEACE until it has burned as far as the ONE.

This could be something new; the ritual lighting of the candle being a signal to pause and just breathe for an inch of time.