Reflections on my first big gig as Minister General - TSSF
I have just been away for 16 days on TSSF business in my role as Minister General – 6 days in Brisbane attending the Conference of the Asia Pacific Province and then their chapter meeting; and then 8 days in England attending the chapter meeting of the European Province at Ely, then a meeting of Franciscan Aid, and finally a meeting of the Central Fund, which I now chair as Minister General, and which funds our inter-provincial life as an order. So here are some reflections, begun as I sat slightly sleep derived, waiting for my flight home to Tauranga, and finished some three weeks later.
Personally this was a really helpful journey. It has really helped me get my head around what it might mean to be Minister General. To be honest I have struggled a bit with this. I was struggling to get my head around how to do this, and even what to do. I was struggling with what my role was and who am I in this role. I was not really seeing myself as Minister General. Sure, I was slowly working my way through the jobs that needed doing, but it was staying at that surface level. And much of that has shifted for me in this time away.
So, I think what has surprised me is that ontologically I am Franciscan, and my “this is mine to do” for the next 6 years is be Minister General. Sometimes I feel quite discouraged about church and my place in that. (Which when I think about how much fun I am having in my parish and how affirming people are of my ministry among them just makes that previous sentence seem stupid, which it is). Basically, my ego would very much like to be more important. That is not very Franciscan is it! But that is what it is. But on this trip in a big way I was able to set that down. My place is in the Franciscan family, the world wide Franciscan family. My ego’s hankering to be in the centre and important has been fulfilled. I am now the centre. I am the functional head and servant of the order. I feel the weight of that. I am deeply humbled and honoured. But it also feels strangely right. I feel like I have been formed in this family over the last 12 or more years for this role. And on this trip it felt good and right to be here. This is mine to do. Ego, you can sit down and ssshhh for a while.
One of the great discoveries of this time away has been Fr. Jack Winslow. It amazes and confuses me that I have not heard his name before. The writer of our rule no less. I have heard of Fr. Algy, the force who took Fr. Jack’s vision and moulded it to become SSF today. But not Fr. Jack. I am grateful to the Asia Pacific conference organisers for inviting me to preach and for choosing to observe his day on the final day of the conference. It has lit a small fire of desire to learn more about our origins, both the Indian expression and beginnings, but also the American story which is different again
I was also surprised and interested to discover I had a “worldwide order” perspective to bring to the chapters I attended. That is a good surprise. It is good that I have this, and I need to be intentional about developing that and offering that. For now that means holding the perspectives and decisions of IPTOC (the InterProvincial Third Order Chapter) held last year in England.
It wasn’t all work. I really enjoyed catching up with family in Brisbane, and my aunt in England. I reunited with a friend from youth ministry days in Wellington, who took me to dinner at the Shard. Cool! It was so good to catch up again after so many years and is such an iconic place. And I really enjoyed going to Ely and it’s beautiful cathedral and walk along the river, and walking around London. I have never walked London before. Usually I have tubed, minding the gap at every point. But this time because it was warm and sunny, and I had the time, I walked lots of places, which was great. I loved going finding places, like Southwark Cathedral, Boundary Market, Mudlarks pub, Tate Modern, The Golden Hinde and the Globe Theatre. Even when I was going somewhere particular I explored. After going to Kinky Boots I waked further along to Trafalgar Square, and then on the Leicester Square and China Town.
Other highlights included going to Harry Potter World, dragging the average age up by several decades; Kinky Boots; and exploring the Tate Modern, well some of it, and then sitting in the sun drinking beer and eating nice food while journaling on my time away. A nice stress free way to spend my last day.
So I worked pretty hard. I had some fun. I had some nice experiences. I greatly enjoyed the hospitality of and praying with the sisters at St. Alphege Clergy House in London. But mostly I came home feeling affirmed and confirmed. I am where I am meant to be. I have spent a lot of time getting here. Now I just need to live it.