There is new evidence that a fire in a coal bunker inside the Titanic weakened its structure making the iceberg impact worse than it otherwise might have been. The fire was ignored? Only heaven knows. What we do know is that experts agree that a combination of different factors led to the Titanic’s disaster.
The first voyage of the magnificent ship was doomed before it set sail because the heart of the Captain was focused on himself instead of his responsibility to listen, watch, navigate and steer. The ship’s speed was too fast for the ice filled waters and a critical and documented iceberg warning was missed. Was the Captain not equipped to deal with life threatening warnings? If he was equipped his role would have been to turn the ship around and address the weather issues, passenger complaints, media disappointment and take the heat for caring for the safety of his passengers, crew and ship. Was he prepared to be courageous and ethical?
The prefix “MSG” was missing from the critical iceberg warning so Captain Phillips chose to believe the message was not urgent. How long did he wait to discern when the warning was urgent? What did it take to get his attention that the boat and her precious cargo and mission were in grave danger? And why, when the ship is in the most dangerous waters, did the Captain give the wheel to a Senior Officer, Charles Lightoller, instead of being on deck fulfilling his role?
First Officer William Murdoch was the first to spot the iceberg and scream a ‘hard a-starboard’ order to which Officer LIghtoller turned the ship the wrong direction. The ship and its leaders were operating under two communication systems that were in direct opposition with one another. Under one system, to turn ‘hard a-starboard’ meant to turn left and right under the other. By the time the Captain and Officers had listened and corrected their move, it was too late.
This past weekend I had the privilege of being on the Conference Praise Team “Joyful Noise” and listening to the speakers who spoke to the needs and woundings of clergy by church leaders, colleagues and congregants. One speaker, a psychologist, talked with us about “circles of trust” being critical safe places for clergy to feel safe enough to courageously share their truth with the Empire. Many clergy dared greatly and stood before the 400 clergy and Conference paid accountable and volunteer lay leaders speaking their truth through fear and tears. I was sad to see so many clergy feeling undermined, misunderstood, betrayed, rejected and abandoned. The speaker replied, “Thank you for your courage to speak with us. Can you imagine how many more inside this room are afraid to speak and seek support for their ministry and congregation?”
During free time at the Conference I noticed small circles appearing in different places around the Pomero Hotel and I could see persons talking quietly and intently while others listened and held space and hands. Conversations of clergy being spiritually and emotionally bullied and abused began to come out of the closet of our affirming lingo. One minister shared that after they retire they will never walk into another church. I know this person and I have listened to her heart, her tears and her sermons. She is a huge presence in our Conference who has been bullied and abused by clergy, leaders and congregants. To watch her suffer anxiety issues that affect her health breaks my heart.
In my own congregation, critical warnings were documented and provided by myself per request by appropriate leaders and they were argued over and then ignored. Then a scream came out during a Council meeting in 2015 by this co-captain begging for people to heed and see the iceberg in the room but no one was willing to listen until the iceberg was upon us and then the truth hit the ship where a fire had long been burning and ignored. For the last year I have been the Captain willing to be on deck in the boat with my congregation. Sadly, the signs are pointing to this Captain walking the plank of her imperfections, blind eyes in courts of leadership and gas lighting that warped perceptions and created circles of blame and shame. When clergy present a consistent false persona to their congregation, they bring down their personal and professional ships in ways that place responsibility on everyone else but themselves. People have been manipulated, lied to and used to deflect and cover up a pattern of icebergs and watching this unfold since April 2014 almost broken my spirit. All I have left is my integrity, my truth and documented critical warnings and my love for you which has never wavered. As these next four weeks unfold between us I pray that each one of us may look into our hearts and see where we have been called to speak to the Empire and take responsibility for our part in sweeping the iceberg under the carpet and blaming another for the effects of the past few years. We are all ministers. We are all called to speak the truth in love no matter how ugly it may be because we are called to be reconciled to God, ourselves and one another as one body in Christ. We are called to own what is ours and to refuse to be scapegoated because that means others are hurting, not just the goat on the cross. We are called to listen and ask clarifying questions, not assume that we have heard correctly or understood what another has said. I was diagnosed with PTSD because of the sustained stress of betrayal, abandonment and rejection. My voice was enlisted but not heard and I own that it is difficult to complete sentences and stay on course under the waves of PTSD. Others among us have suffered stress and hurt or perceived hurt as well and our ship is drifting among long standing toxic systems that existed before we met in March 2009.
Have courage faithful sailors. Discern who is trustworthy and create “circles of trust” among you. Stay on deck offering your gifts. Speak the truth with courage and love to the Empire and do not accept an answer that is not true and healing for all concerned, paid accountable or lay leader or congregant. You are all in the same boat and not every sailor wants to listen, reconcile and heal. Not every sailor has their eyes and hearts opened due to long standing unhealed wounds and fears. Not every sailor is equipped to take the helm and lead through hidden truths into healing ways of being in community. Some will leave the boat because they are wounded by blind eyes to the iceberg and the problems it created. Some will leave because the story is too heavy. Some will leave to find a place of worship where they trust their leadership. Some will jump ship because they didn’t get to fill a power vacuum while others will leave because of those who fill the power vacuum. Squeaky wheels and wounded wheels are listened to and believed much faster than truth bearers. Don’t give up. You are not alone. No minister walks on water but there is someone who does and he says, “Don’t be afraid. It is me.”
Take heed…listen…ask clarifying questions…speak your truth…create circles of trust. Repent, reconcile and repair the ship together and name it AUTHENTICITY AND EMPATHY. If you do, all you will need to do is raise your flag and radically welcome all who enter. And remember, you do not have to be on board with the way everyone does something, says something or believes something in order to be a supportive and compassionate community of sailors. One more thing, have courage to make all pirates walk the plank and don’t blame your new Captain for being human. Encourage them, love them, pray for them, and ask clarifying questions as you hold them accountable. You don’t need a bottle of rum for healthy relationships although sometimes a stiff toast doesn’t hurt! Shalom and Shanti. I love you all.