What’s Up with Pastor Todd 3/24/22
What does the word “grace” mean to you? To me, “grace” points to an attitude of openness, trust, curiosity, invitation, and groundedness. It has a feel of lightness and play. Grace is making space for another person to be their best self. Grace–especially in the Christian sense–is a free gift, undeserved and unconditional.
As a child I was taught that grace is the pivotal point of God’s plan for salvation. We were taught that the whole of the gospel could be summarized in three words: 1) “guilt,” that is, the recognition that every one of us is imperfect and in need of forgiveness, 2) “grace,” that is, God’s unmerited gift of forgiveness and healing through Jesus, 3) and “gratitude,” that is, our response to God’s grace in living lives of joy and service.
The word “grace” came to mind this week as I was listening to your stories about First Church of Christ in Saybrook. Many of your stories were stories of conflict, disagreements, differing viewpoints, the heartbreak that results when differences lead to divisions and divisions lead to folks leaving the church.
Grace in response to differences in perspective could also summarize the recommendation of a church leadership podcast I regularly listen to. In his podcast for this week, church consultant Carey Nieuwhof interviews scholar Francesca Gino, who teaches at Harvard Business School, about her latest article in the Harvard Business Review, entitled, “Managing a Polarized Workforce.” I recommend both the article and the podcast.
Dr. Gino offers very helpful and concrete advice based on her research into what causes and what helps with conflict. Rather than try to summarize them here, I refer you to the resources above. Here are my takeaways:
- Conflict is normal.
- Differing viewpoints are desirable because when they are engaged in a healthy way, they actually increase the organization’s effectiveness.
- We can learn skills to transform conflict into moments of profound insight and deep connection.
- Engaging directly in conversation with someone who disagrees is often not as bad as we imagine it will be.
I’m looking forward to creating grace moments with you as together we learn new behaviors for engaging natural, God-given differences.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-8-20
Dad used to say to me, “You’re just like your mother.” It was not meant as a compliment. Mom and Dad didn’t get along very well. He saw her as weak and indecisive while at the same time claiming she was scheming and manipulative. In reality, my mother is none of these things. After his death, I gained access to Dad’s medical records which included a diagnosis of “narcissistic personality with a histrionic flair.” This meant that he had a tendency to view himself as persecuted. Dad was gay, and he did have deeply wounding experiences of homophobia. But it was as if he had persecution goggles welded to his face. No matter how much Mom or any of us tried to love him, he had a very difficult time accepting it. The point is, Dad’s accusations weren’t personal. It was the mental illness talking.
It’s also possible that Dad heard the words “you’re just like your mother” said to him when he was a boy. He shared with me that in his mind he was “special” and his mother’s “favorite.” In Dad’s time as in ours, the accusation of being a “momma’s boy” often meant bullying was on the way. Clearly, Dad enjoyed the attention he got from his mother. And he was very close to her. But the relationship between mothers and sons can be complicated. This is due in no small part to sexism and discomfort in the wider culture with males who display “female” qualities (the premise of which I reject all together, by the way. There are no essentially “male” or “female” qualities, only human ones.)
Dad’s accusations often had no basis in reality, but I hope he was right that I am just like my mother. She is strong. She is good. She is an adventurer. And she has never stopped growing and changing in all of the time I’ve known her. She is a happily retired minister and chaplain who has traveled the world and blessed countless lives–not least, mine.