Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Not here... you're not our passion...!

Victor came around last night in a state. The knocking on the door signalled something was wrong. Stood on our doorstep his agitation was obvious. Victor clearly has issues (read more here and here). But it seems that his housing association has had enough. They want him out. In his shaking nicotined stained hand the court injunction listing reason after reason how by May 5th he is out.

It doesn’t seem fair to me.

It seems unfair to me that society is intent on making the vulnerable more vulnerable. Break the broken. Crush the indefensible, the voiceless. How far to the margins can people be pushed. I'm cross; angry; disappointed. I seem to have different emotions coursing through me. You see I had a conversation with a colleague today and I feel numb with a mixture of sadness and anger. Treating Victor that way might be alright for society but it is not alright for those trying to demonstrate the kingdom of god.

I'm bubbling.

I have nowhere to go with this - but here…sorry.

You see I hate seeing churches opting out, I hate seeing churches ducking under issues, I hate to see churches failing to take their responsibility. I hate to see churches playing their part in turning their back on the fragmented with a shrug of their shoulders saying 'well they’re not my passion!'

We look out for those that fit the bill. A new person arrives at church gifted musician, artistic, knowing their way around VJ software and we're ecstatic. A new fully functional family with two teenage daughters who sing down a mike and dance with ribbons - we're overjoyed. But when it comes to the complicated, the demanding, the problematic that don't equal glamour, those lives rarely invested in -'well they’re not our passion!'

The problem is those on the margins are rarely easy, they're rarely straightforward, they're rarely trouble-free. The problem is those on the margins don't fit the bill. The problem is those on the margins are not designer people. The problem is those on the margins - it seems are no longer our passion.

Reel out the excuses, self-comforting platitudes, reasons cast in pious language "there's an over provision of services "; "to be honest there too many other groups involved"; "we weren't getting anywhere"; "it's not our passion"; “we need to be better focused…”

God bless your passion.
“…faith can not be lived on the private plane of an interior spirituality. Faith, instead, creates community and such community must express itself in solidarity with the interests and struggles of the poor…” Gustavo Gutierrez
We don't do what we do because it is our passion - we do it because they are God's passion.


Helen said...

The fragmentation of Victor's mind seems mirrored in the services that seek to support him. Are the people looking after his mental health talking to the people providing his housing? - that it should come to this.

In supporting a woman with mental health problems, I have lost count of the number of agencies I've talked to and the number of times the phone is answered with 'Oh they've left'. Things move forwards when there is continuity of workers and a willingness to communicate beyond the boundaries of a job description.
People like you are the glue in the system. Maybe you can't house him or check he is on the best medication but you can speak for him as a whole person and offer him a fragment of normality though keeping open door at the corps.
For me the challenge of liberation theology is at what point I move from being angry and passionate about one person to trying to change a system that is well intentioned but messing up. I'm being eaten by what I know and not knowing what to do with it.
Solidarity is no longer the fashionable term, although it will do for me - social capital is on the lips of those who study these things but who is willing to pay for the glue to be there? The church needs to dig deep in its pockets but is that enough?

Gordon said...


I am just using the fragmentation of society, communities and lives etc.. as in the S Framework for a lecture I'm preparing - so I smiled to see your comment.

My problem is when I hear of places - that once was the glue - losing their stickyness!!

Anonymous said...

I suppose your man Zygmunt Bauman would say people have stopped being sticky because they are afraid of getting stuck. They want to leave open the option of reinventing themselves and moving away from fixed commitments. Even institutions such as TSA find it harder to commit. Poplar Corps is a great example of social capital going back a long way - whose job is it to ensure it keeps going and stays sticky?
Hope the lecture goes well.

Listeningear said...

I was just having a bit of a tantrum myself the other day about the professionals who see their work with people as just a job and dont go that extra mile. Some of the most vulnerable people in our communities have had so many professionals in their lives who just pop in for a moment but wont stick with them for the long haul.

Many fragmented lives can be made whole when they are brought into community and made to feel they are truly loved and belong...

Gordon said...

Umm to remain sticky!! I think that has a lot with ownership of missio dei by the corps/ church together with continual reflection.

The danger is when a new officer moves in and a new pet passion pushes out what has been worked towards like a cuckoo pushing out the eggs. If is just another pet passion it is pushing out - who cares. If it is a co-owned piece of corps mission then perhaps the stickyness goes on.

Long live stick mission!! I am dubious of leaders who follow their passions and not the corps.

Gordon said...


That is true - but being in for the long haul is becoming less and less of what people want to be involved in.

Listeningear said...


I think sometimes there is a little bit of an ego problem when a new Officer comes to a Corps (not always of course) and they want to reinvent the whole corps operations. Giving ownership to the Corps members is the only way to retain the strong mission focus. It takes time, but they need to own the mission and become passionate about it also and then try and let someone take it from them.


Gordon said...

THat's true and worrying - when we got to Poplar 7 years ago the set up was great - we struggled to find our identity within the corps at first - but with time we were able to see why we were sent to Poplar and build on the foundations laid by our predecessors.

The biggest lesson I've learned is taht it is God's mission not mine :o)