Holy Week: Power and Energy

You know how Facebook conjures up your previous posts to remind you of what you were doing or thinking in years past? A couple of days ago, this post from 5 years ago appeared in my feed:

I cringe a bit when I read that, but it also made me pause and think.

If you’re a clergy person or liturgical leader reading this, I wish to say first of all, blessings to you as you enter this very intense week. I hope you get some sleep and some time with loved ones and some time outdoors and some decent food and that your photocopier stays healthy.

And as you enter into this very intense week, here’s my Facebook post inspired thought: Please be aware this week of how you are using your power and your energy.

Power: In Confirm not Conform, we ask the youth, how do you define power? And in what ways do you have power? We discuss how youth may feel powerless and may not recognize the power that they have. I think that’s often true of us in church leadership as well. In fact, I suspect many of us recoil at the thought that we have power or use it.

Realizing that you don’t have a lot of time for additional reflection this week, please entertain the possibility that you have a lot of power. How do you want to use it?

Taking the Facebook example above, we may not recognize that we are using power to compel a congregational response. One thing to bear in mind, especially on Easter Sunday services, is that visitors are largely looking to liturgical leaders for guidance, and thus you have a lot of power. (I personally think ushers are some of the most powerful people on Easter when it comes to visitors!)

I also know that when I am under stress and under time pressure, that I tend to default to a more directive power style. I can’t say I’m proud of that. That’s not everyone’s way. Some people abdicate. Others take over and do things themselves. What is your default under stress? It’s just something to be aware of, so that when you see it happening you can course-correct.

Energy: I remember one time I asked a member of the Altar Guild to create signs to save seats in the church for some event. The day came, and the time was drawing nigh, and the Altar Guild member hadn’t arrived, so I made signs and put them out. And then the Altar Guild member arrived with her signs in plenty of time. And I felt terrible. Not only had I badly used the power I had, but I had wasted a lot of energy: I had used energy to ask this woman to do this task; I had used her energy to make the signs and show up early; and I had also used my own energy to do the same task again. Not only that, but I knew that in future, I couldn’t call upon the energy of that Altar Guild member because I had squandered it the first time.

Are you using your own energy to get things done? Or are you employing other people’s energy to get things done? Neither one is right or wrong. But what I’ve learned through my own failure is that if you have delegated, delegate. Don’t double-dip on the energy being given.

If you’re using other people’s energy, be aware that this still uses some of yours. Recognize how much of your own energy is required to supply them with what they need to do what you’ve asked, and to follow up afterwards with thanks or a review of the activity, or both.

If you’re using your own energy, be realistic about how much you have, and how much energy what’s required of you will take.

And don’t forget that there may be people with a lot of energy who have never been asked or who are new to the work (I am, of course, thinking primarily of youth, but there are others as well). If you have some last minute errands or tasks, there still may be time to invite them to help.

Last but most certainly not least: don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect – or even seem to go off the rails. Hold on to the essentials: Jesus is still risen (*spoiler alert*). God is still love. The good news is still good. And the community of faith is still joined in fellowship and prayer.

Holy Week blessings to one and all.