If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. Marc Chagall, who created the stained glass window at the Chagall Museum in Nice.
There’s counting and there is counting. There’s bean counting, and there is what counts as “ourstory”.
I once worked with a group of Episcopal churches in Texas. They were mostly small, rural churches, and collectively they felt like they were dying. Their budgets and membership had fallen off. I listened for a while, and then I said, “You know, it’s interesting to me that the only books you’re keeping have to do with dollars and numbers and members. Can you imagine another kind of book that has to do with the resourcefulness of the people in your congregations, the gifts they have to offer, the needs of the communities they serve in, and how those gifts and those needs might intersect?” I said, “You could actually do an inventory of that.”
There are accounts of measurable items, and there are accounts of wonder. The former are required reading for our “managers” and are lodged in safe places. Jobs, futures and political gain are staked by these measures which are often massaged into a healthy glow. Where is that other kind of book kept, as spoken of by Parker Palmer?
They are kept in the hearts of people. Luke rounds the story of the Annunciation with the beautiful expression, “and Mary treasured these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Things treasured in hearts are full of wonder, love and heart-felt story. Such stores are never emptying and never exhausted. They sustain communities and help them to thrive.
The accounts we are asked to keep of pounds, numbers and members are heartless and don’t change a thing. That is book-keeping for managers and survival. There is a different book-keeping and accountancy which takes account of gifts and needs, memories and longings. These are the accounts that are worth having. These are the accounts which give fresh heart to communities and churches. Our leaders need to treasure them in their hearts. They are “secrets hidden in plain sight”.