Wednesday, February 02, 2005
One more thought on anonymity
Those who perceive that anonymity pushes one of my buttons are insightful. I have deeply personal reasons for mistrusting nameless complainers, reasons based on experience, not some idealized notion that people should automatically trust me because I'm a good guy.
In my first year as a full-time liturgist, I experienced a particularly gruesome episode which involved rumors involving a male friend who went in with me on a home purchase, a woman I was dating, her family, some choir members, and my pastor. All was set into motion by a person who was jealous that my social life was exclusive of her. (It actually wasn't until the whole mess was aired that I even realized her feelings.) The upshoot of it was that the priest chose to treat the complaints (some anonymous, some not, but set into motion by the person behind the scenes) more seriously than they deserved, and for two months he wavered on rehiring me (unbeknownst to me ... I just thought he was a procrastinator on new contracts and staff evaluations). The end result was my roommate caught in a swirl of homosexual innuendo, my broken romance, a deep alienation between my pastor and me, and a souring distrust among a handful of parishioners. This happened because about three or four people decided it was safer to undercut things behind the scenes. They were cowardly. And my first reaction to this day regarding anonmyous complaints is to judge in the same way.
Trust me on this one. If you want to move things in your parish in a good way and in a good direction, give up the anonymous crap. I like people who are spitfires about their pet issues, and I enjoy a good honest exchange. I'm well aware that some pastors and staff would prefer not to be confronted, but that's their problem, not yours. If confronting them isn't going to begin the process of change, you can bet that an unsigned letter will have the same effect.
When I was a parishioner and wanted to get things done in a parish that I thought had a somewhat hidebound staff, I would take the route of diplomacy: invite a staff member out for a beer or a breakfast. When I found aspects of their ministry to praise or take an interest in, they were much more willing to at least entertain my crazy ideas. Fiddling with a person's livelihood, be they a parish professional or a secular professional, is not likely to be met with openness at first, even if you do know the latest on liturgical music or medications from the FDA or the legal system as practiced on Law and Order. Cultivating relationships of trust will be far more satisfying and far less threatening in the long run. Believe it.