Over the years of ministerial set-backs I have never been bothered by apparent discouragements in the big things. Big things are hard to do. They should be. People will have objections, clarifications or improvements. And that is all fine. In fact it is better than fine; it is the way things should be. It should be hard to re-order an old building, plant a new church or run a massive community festival. I wouldn't take any satisfaction in having been part of those three things in the last few years if they had been easy.
But some things are easy. And if it gets hard to do easy things then life can be grim.
Over the years of my Christian service I have developed some aptitude in folding up and stacking tables. I am familiar with most mechanisms and even vaguely enjoy encountering a new one. The type of table you find in many church halls is pictured left. Buy them from Gopak if you need some more.
Now I well remember the day when I was struggling to rotate a particularly tough hinge; an old guy took me on one side and asked me if I wanted to know a secret. It was the twinkle in his eye that got me.
He proceeded to do a 'watch and learn son' on me. He stood the table up on its end and placed one foot on the bar I was trying to move, pressing down to disengage it. He then angled the table slightly towards him. When he returned the table to the vertical the legs had begun to fold. He closed them, turned the table through 180⁰ and repeated the process. Job done.
Ever since then I have used this method and have enjoyed liberating others by showing it to them when they were struggling. Everyone has seemingly been as pleased as me when hearing of such labour-saving. Until this week.
I showed someone and got the reply 'That doesn't work for me.' No further discussion was encouraged. I was sad because it either showed a particularly stubborn streak or an unwillingness to learn. I really wanted to know why. Had it been tried and found wanting? Was there some flaw in my scheme about which I was ignorant? (Training cuts both ways.) I sought clarification with a smile but none was forthcoming.
I let it go. No point in forcing the matter. But behind my back I heard another person say to the person who had just refused my advice - 'You should have just said 'Yes' and ignored him.' Was I mansplaining? I am a man and on this occasion it was a woman I was trying to help. Maybe it wasn't what I said but the way I said it. That's happened before.
It is a new level of parish audit for me. I have always used this one:
It will take you ten times as long to improve a church as it does to improve the coffee
My level two statement is now:
Before you train a congregation in evangelism try training them in table-stacking