This picture doesnt have anything to do with what follows. Its an old one and I like it.Last time I was in supervision, about a week or so ago, Paul gave me a metaphor that I have been carrying with me and thinking about ever since. He said that organisations - all of them, marriages, families, parishes, dioceses, companies, nations, whatever - were like giant jig saw puzzles, each member being a piece and each member fitting into the space that is most suited for it. Each member meshes with the pieces all around and makes a contribution to the whole pattern of the organisation. But the pieces are fluid; they are plastic; they are capable of taking on an infinite variety of shapes, like amoebas. So an organisation is like a giant jig saw puzzle made of amoebas. Change the shape of one amoeba piece and all the other pieces around it must change to accommodate the change, and the pieces that touch the newly changed pieces must in their turn change, with changes being transmitted right across the puzzle to the very edges. Of course influence goes both ways: the pieces shape and influence the puzzle and the puzzle shapes the pieces. And when a new piece is introduced there will be enormous pressure on that new piece to change to fit the space that is allocated to it. There will also be enormous pressure to resist the change of shape that a new piece must necessarily bring.
Of course the picture is made all the more complex when we realise that we, all of us, are simultaneously pieces in a large number of different, seemingly independent puzzles; so our family picture changes, we consequently change, and this brings a resulting change to our church or our classroom or our social club.
The astute amongst you, and I know that is all of you, will realise that this is a metaphor illustrating the basic tenets of family systems theory, and for many years the insights of Edwin Friedman's Generation To Generation: Family Process In Church and Synagogue have been foundational in the way I have dealt with parishes. But Paul's metaphor simplified it for me and helped me understand some of the dynamics of our diocese and the way I have related to it over this first year or so of episcopacy.
There's nowhere I really want to go with this, other than to share it. I left Portobello, last week, to drive home through a Westerly gale and drenching sprays of salt water enlightened and reflective: the expected result of all good supervision.