What is Most Important
"Despite all the (mounting) anxiety - I think both Christie and I are excited about the adventure of Europe. In many ways, it is a large unknown - to everyone, including ourselves. In some ways, things are just unknown to us - surely my supervisor and fellow ministers and the Europe church have some expectations and understanding, and I have no idea where or what those are. Hopefully, that will be somewhat corrected in the next few months (and it may be an act of mercy not to burden me with those until I am free of obligation to the Northwest).
But one of my goals should be to enjoy Europe. Make that an explicit goal of my first year, too.
The minister for Hungary wrote to me earlier this week asking to hear about any ideas I have for Europe - and I'm torn. I really do feel like I need to learn what the Europe church wants for itself. I don't want to go to Europe with a cadre of pre-conceived notions, but moreover, I can't, without being egregiously arrogant and misguided. I don't say this as "I shouldn't," but as "I am not capable of going over there with many preconceived ideas."
When I started my present position in the Seattle-area congregations, I tried really hard not to impose my vision and priorities onto the congregations. But the truth was that I had my own visions and priorities. They weren't set in stone, or overriding congregational identity and initiatives, or exclusive of other ideas, even. But I had some ideas going into this what I could do. After all, I had lived here for several years already and was at least somewhat familiar with the church here by virtue of language, nationality, culture, and so on. None of these commonalities exist for me in the Europe church. I am not able to go into Europe with even a skeleton plan of preconceived notions.
In some ways this is good, surely, since I will be able to genuinely throw myself into Europe for its own sake. At the same time, however, I worry about the perception of my leadership abilities if I enter in in total obedience to the local whim of the people. (Two things come to mind: Jesus would not, I believe, condone entering Europe "proudly" and full of myself, and would himself model "servant leadership;" and part of my leadership ability may be to discern the viable priorities and initiatives, find the fertile ground, in Europe, from all the potential options.)
And, too, all this is not entirely honest. We do have commonalities. In fact, these commonalities are not merely "cultural" or "linguistic" or "nationalistic" - they are necessarily deeper, more foundational, root convictions. We are grounded in the scriptures, in shared history, in commitment to community, peace, and the worth of all persons. So perhaps there is hope there. I am going without my familiar footing, but not without grounding altogether. It may be a strange shore, but we share the same anchors. Perhaps going to Europe will be a good exercise for me in letting go of the unessential, identifying and keeping hold of what is most important.
What is most important. A tall order indeed."