Fixer vs. Holy Person

UU minister and blogger Rev. Victoria “PeaceBang” Weinstein had a thought-provoking entry on her blog on Thursday. Though primarily directed at ministers, I think it applies to all of us who want to do and be spiritually more than we are. She begins by quoting writer Thomas Moore:

In many different traditions the spiritual leader is not really called to fix the world. That’s not what he or she does. Rather that person is called to be a holy person – a person who has a special degree of contemplation or reflection. They have the ability to see the world in a certain way and have shaped their life and a personality out of that. People come to that person to be in their presence because of what he/she has achieved and who he/she has become.

So the idea is not to bring your problems to this person. I mean you wouldn’t do that to so many of the spiritual leaders of the world. You don’t bring your problems to them. What you do is you come to them seeking a depth, a vision and a personality that has been really transformed by preparation.

PeaceBang adds her own commentary:

I was not called into ministry to fix. My ordination vows say nothing about “fixing.” My installation vows speak of walking with a community “the path of understanding, righteousness, peace and spiritual growth.” … I am expected to be the minister, to keep before myself and the congregation the “moments of our high resolve,” to articulate our values and to model them, and to be a presence of love and reverence within the community in a way that is authentic to my personality.

I see two areas where this applies to me. First, as someone with high spiritual aspirations (not formal ministry but being the Pagan priest I’ve been called to be), I frequently struggle with wanting to fix things – and with wanting things to fix. I am an engineer, after all. But this is a reminder that so much of what I deal with is out of my control. I can’t fix most situations and I certainly can’t fix people. What I can do is to model the kind of life I want to live, to be a good example. This means deep, regular spiritual practice. It means maintaining a sense of proportion when dealing with the distractions that have been plaguing me lately. It means having a vision for my life and keeping that vision in front of me no matter what.

It’s all about being who I want to be, and who I’m called to be.

Secondly, I see a clear application in my current church environment. We (along with just about every other church I’ve ever been involved with) look to our ministers to fix things: fix our budget, fix our committees, fix our membership, fix our ambivalence about being a church. But as this says, that’s not really the role of the minister. Certainly a minister brings special training and expertise, certainly he or she has experience even an active church member will never get, certainly a minister can help lead and guide a congregation in directions it doesn’t even know it needs to go. But a minister can’t fix a church.

He or she can show us what a healthy congregation and healthy members look like, but in the end it’s up to us to be the congregation we’re called to be.

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