A bird’s eye view

In the Aboriginal Dreamtime, the all-father of the Kulin people is known as Bunjil who, after having created the lands and the people, flew up with his wives and sons into the tharingbek (sky or heavens) to become the eagle star, Altair. In his earthly form he is the Eaglehawk, commonly known as the wedge-tailed eagle.

It was 38 degrees the other day when I went outside and sat in the shade of a tree in our back paddock for quite some time. On hot days at this time of the year, you can sometimes share the shade with a profusion of butterflies.

For those into Hobbit/Lord of the Rings movies, I had a bit of a Gandalf experience as I watched the erratic flight of a butterfly, which morphed into the more ordered flight of a wedge-tailed eagle high in the tharingbek.

Where we live, there is a pair of wedge-tails, so I patiently waited for the other one, which eventually appeared higher still. Both were enjoying the warm updrafts. The lower one gradually dropped down in circular flight patterns. I’m sure it must have seen me. But I sat very still all the same.

It’s a stirring experience to watch a wedge-tail soar lower and lower and closer, until you can see its pivoting head and ever searching eyes. It was so hot all the other species of birds were nowhere to be seen. Normally the magpies would be squawking and carrying on and heading up one by one in tag teams to hassle and send them on their way.

A couple of days later, I attended my home congregation in Warrandyte. The rest of my family had other things to do, so I went by myself.

‘Reorientation’ formed part of the theme of the service of worship and at one point, we sang Joachim Neander’s ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation’, where the second verse goes:

“Praise to the Lord who in all things is wondrously reigning
and, as on wings of an eagle, uplifting, sustaining:
have you not seen all that is needed has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?”

As I drove home along the back roads, I found myself humming the hymn and pondering the recent events in the life of our Uniting Church.

I reflected on the various desires that have been expressed to me, all of which I continue to respect and know and feel for. And I longed to be lifted up high above it all and see like the eagle. Where is our leadership?

I have heard it said from time to time. And I have reminded myself that it’s about relationship and interaction among individuals and councils of the church. It’s only there that our vision as a body of believers can be clarified.

It’s in the councils of the Church that goals can prayerfully be determined and the ways of achieving them be chosen.
In our church, leadership takes place in councils.

But it’s one thing to set goals, make plans and decisions – and another thing altogether to see that they are carried out; that is a function of management, which I know only too well. Managers focus on appropriate structure, strategy, procedure, or systems within an organisational structure.

Leadership without management gets nowhere; management without leadership does not know where to go.

Here lies the rub. Leadership is concerned with the things that are worth doing. Management is concerned with getting things done, getting them done well, efficiently and effectively.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

So what are the right things?

This is such a crucial time in the life of the Uniting Church. 2014 will be a pivotal time for this synod as it embarks on its strategic review. There will be a Synod meeting in September and many councils of the church will meet beforehand.

Now is the time for each of us to do some prayerful preparation.

And when the full Synod meets, the equality of each and every council of the church must be recognised as ecclesia.

No council has more ‘power’ than another. That kind of power can produce estrangement.

The power we all have is our relationship with God and with each other. It’s our capacity to influence and be influenced. In short, interdependence.

Eagles function inter-dependently. They use their binocular vision to advantage, enabling them to find food from a greater distance. Their eyes are equipped with bony rings that can squeeze and elongate the eyeball for much greater peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is of course what is seen off to the side when looking straight ahead.

At first the finer detail is missed until the head is turned in the appropriate direction.

Dan Wootton

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