Its been a sporty kind of week around here- NBA finals, Bliss wanting to play soccer and football in the living room (this works since she is 2)… so I thought I’d get back to a thought I had a month or two ago.
SportsCenter is a favorite show of mine. First, its on pretty much all day. Second, they tell you whats coming up so you can sit through the (fill in your least fave sport here) conversation when you know they’re getting back to football soon. Third, when Bliss was a baby, I would nurse her while watching SportsCenter because I could be reasonable confident that there wouldn’t be any sudden explosions or anything to distract her, but plenty of sports to distract me. Win win.
During football spring camps, I watched Peyton Manning warming up for training. In a Broncos uniform. That was weird. I’m not really a Colts fan per se, but Peyton and Indianapolis were inseparable, until they were… well, separable. I don’t think he has many years of football left in him, and this year of injury damaged his rep almost as much as his shoulder in some ways – but it seemed to me that he left Indy with a fair amount of grace.
There’s a lot to be said with sticking with one team for a long time. When you’ve been with the same team since you’re rookie year, when you’ve had a lot of success – people get used to your faults, and they are willing to cheer for you through an awful lot of losses. But not everyone leaves those teams well or gracefully. You get the Brett Farve effect – someone who should have retired the first time, not tried two more more times for that elusive last victory.
Those long tenures are falling out of custom in congregations. Partly, its because too many clergy act like Brett – they just don’t know when to quit. Or they act like TO – parading around as though they are they key to every play, every game- which leads to not playing well with others, and generally to the whole team under-performing (yeah, you, Dallas Cowboys).
Leaving with grace when its time to move on – either for retirement or because the team needs to move in a new direction with different leadership – is a skill and an art. Its one more clergy might need to practice, because the culture changes and shifts that need to occur in many of our congregations will take time and trust. As Diana Butler Bass says, “Spiritual awakening is an act of trust.” And that takes time and commitment to build.
I don’t know what Indy will look like next year. Andrew Luck will undoubtedly be compared to Peyton, but just maybe, he will be able to emerge into his own style of leadership at quaterback – influenced but not overshadowed by the legacy of Peyton. Maybe our congregations will be able to learn from the legacy too.