Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tribute to a colleague

Tribute to a colleague, The Rev. Gordon McBride

The Reverend Gordon McBride, retired rector of Grace St. Paul’s, Tucson, has gone to rest in the soul of God, joining the communion of saints. He has set down his earthly pilgrim’s bag and taken up the journey of eternal formation. We commend our brother Gordon to the Presence of God the Trinity.

Meanwhile, here in this dimension of time, I will miss Gordon. He was a wise sage, skilled facilitator of the Commission on Ministry, a voice for a more progressive Christian theology, and an inspiration to those of us who dare to consider ourselves writers. His encouragement was that he made time during his life as a university parish priest to be the author he dreamed. And then he created the joyful space to travel and promote his works.

Gordon’s writing inspired me to be transparent and vulnerable about the inner life that I feared priests could not. For that, I am deeply appreciative. While he was committed to his craft, he didn’t take himself so seriously that he was unapproachable about the nuts and bolts of writing. He was always willing to share his knowledge with me. For that I am grateful and will miss. But, most of all, I will miss his presence, his provocation, his willingness to gently confront.

In the last few months we, and I, have lost two brothers of the priesthood, Gordon and the Rev. Richard George. Both were leaders, mentors and spiritual guides. Because they would expect as much, we will pray for them, their families and ourselves. And we will dare walk in their path, carrying our own pilgrim’s bag until it is our time to join them on the next journey, in the life on the otherside.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Herding Snails

Herding Snails

This morning we are in Camarillo, California on our way to Santa Barbara to spend a few days at Mount Calvary. As is our custom, we went on a long walk. The ocean-side mountains are hid from our view by the cool, misty fog. It made for a gentle contrast to the harsh desert heat we fled.

Somewhere in our wondering, we came upon a stretch of about eight feet of sidewalk to discover nearly a dozen snails crossing the four-foot path. The snails were at varying degrees of their journey. Some were near the goal of the lush vegetation lining the opposite side of the walk. Others were just beginning, what I imagine, was a long journey.

We stopped to admire their pace. Being on the first day of our holiday, it was a good reminder.

It was also a moment of musing. We often remark about the impossibility of herding cats, especially for the leaders of our large institutions of independent thinkers, like universities, public schools and the Church.

But, maybe in our archaic and behemoth structures, leaders are more likely faced with herding snails instead of the quicker feline. What institutional participant moves with the grace and agility of the cat when change is at hand?

My own experience and that of my walking partner’s, both of whom have many years of leadership in gigantic and ancient crumbling pillars of America, is that directing change is like the herd of the snails we encountered.

Our approach as leaders, if focused on the process and not the outcome, might find our “herd” less startled, frightened, and scattering for cover, but instead, if leaders are patient, will find our charges willing to move at their own pace towards a new feeding ground, where the fruits will yield a result far outstripping our strategic planning.