Like most who call ministry a career, my pastime that came to a crossroad some time ago has now taken a definite turn in a definitive direction. I’m glad of it. But it has meant I’ve had to let some very precious things go… actually, that’s a process and I’m not there yet. You may relate.
Ever since I was abused for the first three years of my apprenticeship (1984 – 1986) I’ve had a solemn resolve to be an advocate. Many times, I’ve been appreciated in this role, but not always. And I haven’t always deployed the role right, in the appropriate ways, or at the correct times, but my heart has endeavoured to be true.
My first career in what I always considered was an advocacy role was in industrial safety and health – injury and illness prevention and recovery. I always felt it was crucial to my role to see where risk was and to mitigate it. Everyone has the right to go home in one piece. I built systems and processes, audited compliance, trained practitioners in the psychology and systems, responded to industrial-scale emergencies, and investigated and analysed incidents. I was trained to find the systems error and to endeavour to understand the human factors where there was loss. That made sense. Eradicate the repeatable patterns, in reducing the severity of loss events and the likelihood of them re-occurring. Risk management in a nutshell.
The safety and health role had components of proactivity for prevention of incidents – before things went wrong – and reactiveness for the recovery of incidents – when things actually went wrong.
My second career where I consider myself an advocate is as a minister (broadly speaking) within the Christian environment (now extending beyond the church) also has a proactive and reactive focus.
The proactive focus is through the peacemaking ministry, PeaceWise. The reactive is through what I’m learning and have learned through counselling practice, and through my own negative relational experiences. The reactive is more where relationships become toxic, often beyond the reach of peacemaking. The reactive involves abuse and trauma. Peacemaking requires reasonable minds that are prepared to venture into the idols of the heart we all bow down to. Both are needed in a concerted effort to restore the imbalances that occur because of and through conflict.
Now, this may stun you, but Christians don’t behave as Christians should – we behave like the sinners we are. That creates problems we must address.
Often people don’t realise they’ve done wrong and think it’s all the other person’s fault. That’s almost the norm. Through peacemaking principles, many can see their own contribution, and this empowers them to seek to reconcile with their aggrieved party; to restore the balance that was once a feature of the relationship, or to even create a superior sense of balance, for mutual satisfaction.
Occasionally, however, no matter how much help is given, a person or persons cannot or will not see their fault at all. This polarises conflict and into the arena of abuse we go.
The proactive work is in equipping Christians to negotiate conflict before they encounter it, so they can have a restorative influence on their relationships. The reactive work is in helping those who’ve been hurt, traumatised and scarred from either what turns out to be reparable or irreparable conflict. Here, I recognise the right everyone has to feel healed, and to be at peace within life.
This ministry manifesto outlines what I do. I do what I do because we’re all equal under God. Yet, whether by accident or intention, people go around acting like they’re more equal with God than they are with others.
In conflict we become unequal, and, where relationships are out of balance, life is wrong.
Christ came that we might be reconciled to God through himself. In a manifesto of commitment to work to the ends of “righteousness and justice and equity, every good path” (Proverbs 2:9) for all, I continue that call afresh.