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Monday, 13 July 2015

Mistakes Happen

I used to be a perfectionist.  While I don’t describe myself as a perfectionist any longer, I do like things to go well.  I don’t like mistakes.  But I can accept it when I make a mistake; I can move on and not let it get under my skin.  I can even laugh at myself.

Part of what helped undo my perfectionism was being part of Manitou Conference of The United Church of Canada.  When I was ordained (back in 1989), I was sent to Manitou Conference in Northern Ontario to a small town called Matheson; I served the Matheson Pastoral Charge for 6 years and loved it there.

What I appreciated about Manitou Conference was that it was a small conference and we could get to know our colleagues.  I also appreciated the fact that new ministers were encouraged to take on leadership roles.  Within a year of coming to Matheson, I was serving on the Conference Ministry, Personnel & Education Committee with its concomitant responsibilities of Settlement, Interview Board and Internship.  I served as secretary.

The other encouragement I had in Manitou Conference was around music.  I was asked to lead the music at one of our conference meetings.  I sing and can play the guitar.  I used to direct our choir at St. Andrew’s in Matheson.  I grew up with music—my mom was a piano teacher, organist and choir director.  I put together a little band and we led the music at conference; it was great!

It was also a great teaching tool.  I am not a professional musician.  I make mistakes, but I play with passion and integrity.  At the conference during which I led the music, I made plenty of mistakes.  But we sang over them and played with joy and passion.  What I remember people saying afterwards was that they appreciated the integrity of the music and playing, the passion and the joy, and that the mistakes didn’t matter.

That conference meeting was a great learning experience.  I learned that I could make mistakes and continue to be who I was.  Mistakes didn’t diminish me.  I wasn’t conquered by my mistakes.  I learned how to acknowledge my mistakes, learn and grow and move on.  I could let my perfectionism go… at least a little bit!

Acknowledging my mistakes came to the fore after yesterday’s worship (July 12th).  I made a mistake, a very glaring mistake, in the communal prayer in the 4 directions.  I mixed up east and west!  I didn’t really think about it at the time nor when I wrote the prayer.  Janet asked me about it later in the day.  Ooops!  And what makes it funnier is that I said, later in my sermon, that when I’m hiking, I have a good sense of direction!!  Ooops!

But I let the mistake go.  I actually laughed out loud about it.  Many years ago I would have agonized over my mistake.  Today, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I can laugh at myself.


Of course, being part of a community of trust and love certainly helps.  I trust the people with whom I work and worship.  We don’t belittle each other, but support each other with love and compassion.  I can live with my mistakes because people can live with me and hold me in love.

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