From my heart to yours – April 2015

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

From my heart to yours – April 2015

From my heart to yours

In the last two weeks, Roxy and I have had the privilege of sitting down with two separate families and having a conversation with them about the funeral service they would like for their mother. This is a very sacred time, to hear stories of another person’s life and death. These are priceless moments I treasure in ministry. Ministry is truly varied, looking back on my ministry, I have had the privilege to participate in a wide variety of memorable moments, not just the well-known public ones like:

  • Leading of worship
  • Preaching
  • Baptisms
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • ANZAC Day Parades
  • Community Carol Services

But also the very private moments like:

  • Sitting with a young mother who had just given birth to a stillborn baby.
  • Telling a young boy (aged 7) that his father had committed suicide and he wanted to know, how he did it.
  • Being with a person at the very moment of their death.

Ministry offers moments of utter delight along with moments of deep anguish, when I wonder if what I was doing was actually effective and helpful. For the first twenty years of my ministry, there was no one there apart from Fleur with whom I could share and reflect about what I was doing and how I responded pastorally to those sacred moments like those mentioned above. Then I discovered supervision.

The term ‘supervision’ evokes images of a ‘boss’ who has power to demand, direct and discipline while being in a line of accountability to the organisation. This is vastly different, from the supervision that I have received and still do and what I currently offer to others.

I currently offer supervision to four Presbyterian ministers, a ministry intern (not Roxy), a counsellor / educator and an Employment Consultant. Each requires a slightly different model of supervision. However, what is present and consistent across all models of supervision is the task of seeing more clearly.

Let me explain, first a story:

The sculptor was in a leather of sweat as he sculptured a mammoth block of stone. At times he stood back then began wielding his hammer and chisel.

A little child was watching from the doorway, fascinated with the intentness of the sculptor, yet seeing only the large and small pieces of stone falling away to right and left. But when the little child returned to the studio some weeks later, to her great surprise there was a huge, powerful lion sitting in the place where the marble had stood. Excitedly the girl ran up to the sculptor and said, “Please tell me, how did you know there was a lion in that stone?

Henri Nouwen describes the art of sculpting: as the art of seeing; then discipline of making visible what has been seen. He also sees there are similarities between sculpting and supervision and he suggests that at different times in the supervision relationship both the supervisor and the supervisee are by turns the sculptor and the marble.

By this he means that both are engaged in the task of endeavouring to see more clearly; things, issues, experiences, feelings, and problems as they really are. Both seek to see the connections and patterns in the various threads of the supervisee’s life and experience and the potential for solutions. The supervision also offers the opportunity to make visible what the supervisor or supervisee sees, we could say, it is the opening of eyes long closed, that may have prevented either from seeing clearly.

Together, supervisor and supervisee seek to discover the potential of what is already present. We may say that the supervisor and the supervisee are both the artist and the statue. With trust present, there comes an openness for reflection, self – learning, and self – discovery, this will enable both to see what is being formed in the growth of the artist and what remains within the block of marble.

Offering supervision is for me a privilege in which I create a sacred space in which a gracious conversation and reflection takes place, offering the possibility of renewed action and hope. I leave you with this poem from New Zealand Poet Anne Powell entitled Here:

Over cups of tea and coffee

The sacred becomes gathered warmth

In low – fenced backyards and playgrounds

The sacred chatters and laughs.

In conflicts and misunderstandings

The sacred waits to be revealed

The pot of the world simmers with the sacred.

Take off the lid.

Meanwhile peace within the sacred pot of life

Alf