The Mennonite Church has many opportunities for lay leadership. That’s how we like to frame it. It can also be framed as – once you’re in the door, you won’t get out again without putting in your hours of service.
But no, let’s go with the “opportunities for lay leadership” thing, instead.
In my short decade and a half in the Church, I have been called upon for a variety of leader-like activities, ranging from being the person in charge of coordinating coffee-makers to youth mentorship.
I know what you’re thinking.
How was it even possible for the Drunken Mennonite to have been entrusted with the task of mentoring a young person?
I’ve got to admit, it was a bit of a mismatch.
Surely there are more appropriate positions within the structure of the Church to put my prodigious talents at work. I could, for instance, be chair of the committee whose job it is to sit in the back and live tweet snide comments during congregational meetings. Or I could be the official minutes annotator. Or, of course, Church Mixologist.
If only such positions actually existed.
It is also true that if I were to assume a mentorship role, I ought to be mentoring people above the legal drinking age. Unfortunately, mentorship in my local congregation is not something extended to people over the age of majority, though I expect some could use it.
But that hasn’t been my only “leadership” role. I don’t think anyone would consider my role as Coordinator of the Church’s coffee ministry to be a leadership position (not that coffee isn’t important for the life of the Church) but some of the other positions I have held fit uncomfortably within the category of lay leadership. I’ve even been on the Church Board a couple of times.
When this happens, I generally assume that: a) no one else would agree and/or b) the people doing the asking just don’t me all that well.
Because there’s the whole moral leadership issue.
I have an uncle who claims that the best part of the Mennonite faith is that it is entirely anti-hierarchical. Never mind that this particular uncle has not entered a Mennonite Church except for family funerals in over thirty years. Also never mind that there are whole branches of the Church that would consider this belief of my uncle’s absurd.
But, I, too, think of it as an ideal — the Priesthood of all Believers that means none of us are any better than any others of us. I kinda like it. In practice, we usually drag out that concept to justify lay preaching from time to time. But it’s more than that, really. It means that even the likes of me can be a youth mentor or a Board member. And it means that our pastors and lay leaders are held to the same moral standard as the rest of us.
That’s been my understanding, anyway. I went and googled “moral leadership and Mennonite” and found only an old document that stated that the character and reputation of leaders should be “above reproach.” It wasn’t clear on which of us lay leaders need to meet this standard and which not. In the spirit of the Priesthood of all Believers, I’d like to think the measuring rod extends to coordinators of coffee making, those people who makes sure the parking lot is ploughed in the winter and, well, everybody.
Or, actually, maybe I’d rather it go for nobody.
On the face of it, I get wanting to avoid “reproach.” Reproach is pretty unpleasant. I don’t think I’d like hanging out there. One could be reproached for so many things. For instance, I reproach people for their typos on a regular basis (but mostly only in my head, as I am trying to suppress my inner pedant). Staying above reproach? Not for me. I’d rather, you know, circle around reproach or hang out somewhere beneath it.
Because I’m not a pastor, none of this would matter at all except for that whole Priesthood of all Believers thing. Which does get in the way and spoil a good party from time to time. And as I prefer a good party to the smug satisfaction of being above reproach, I’ll just let you know right here and now that if you’re looking for me, you can find me hanging about somewhere under reproach. I’ll probably be trying to avoid your notice but I expect there’ll be a bunch of Church leaders hanging out with me there.
We’ll be drinking cocktails.
Above Reproach Cocktail
This is an excellent cocktail. There’s nothing whatsoever to reproach it for. A variation of the traditional gin and tonic, it adds the sweetness of smug satisfaction to counter the tonic’s bitter glumness. Admittedly, I myself might not be above reproach for basically taking a typical elderflower G&T and slapping a new name on it for no good reason but the addition of rhubarb bitters. Oh well. I think I’ve already made it clear I don’t care about staying above reproach.
- 1 1/2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
- 2-3 dashes rhubarb bitters
- 4 oz tonic water
Stir the first 3 ingredients in a mixing glass and add in the tonic water. Pour into serving glass filled high with ice. Garnish with something homemade and drink with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, even if this cocktail is the closest you will ever get to something or someone above reproach.