Sharing the load

charles gallacher and kerrie linghamNIGEL TAPP

It is often said two heads are better than one but in ministry it is more common to see one person filing a position rather than two sharing the role.

In 2016 there are many who believe the sharing of placements must be considered as an alternative to expecting one person to master everything.

Rev Kerrie Lingham and her husband Rev Charles Gallacher are no strangers to joint ministry, having served together in two congregations since ordination a quarter of a century ago.

The duo spent eight years at Terang and have been ministering at Queenscliff ever since.

Ms Lingham said while having two ministers sharing one placement was quite uncommon when the couple first started, the fact they had a young family meant it made perfect sense to share the load, both at home and in ministry.

She said she believed that the model the couple use actually meant both were able to achieve far more than if each was operating in their own placement.

“I am someone who throws myself into a community and to do that in a separate community to Charles would have been hard,” she said.

“Here I am free to do that.”

The couple believe one of the benefits for the congregation is that both ministers are practising the gifts and performing the roles they are best suited to, rather than a minister being forced to operate in areas where they were not comfortable.

“For example I am more of the co-ordinator so I do more things in that area,” Ms Lingham said.

“I love cooking and gathering people around food and that is something we do quite a lot at Queenscliff.

“Charles is the more patient one and is happy to do things such as making sure the website is updated, something I just couldn’t do.”

The couple generally share the ministry requirements associated with Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Mr Gallacher said keeping in constant touch was important as many parishioners believed that if they told one something the other would automatically be brought into the loop, which was not necessarily the case.

He said the couple had found it beneficial to understand their preferences through the Myers and Briggs psychological testing which indicated the tasks each was best suited to undertaking  and why.

Both said there were few downsides for the congregation in having two ministers in the one placement. They believe they actually remain more energised by being able to play to their specific strengths.

Rev Denise Savage and Anthea Maynard have just started job sharing the role of Presbytery Minister Leadership Formation in Tasmania with the role divided to best meet their particular gifts.

While job sharing is new to both, they are keen to explore the challenges presented and find a way of proving it can be just as effective as having one person in the post.

Synod Liaison Minister Rev Carol Bennett was a key driver of the arrangement and said it should not be seen simply as a ‘two-for-one’ deal. Both are operating part-time and it is important the boundaries associated with such an arrangement are recognised.

“From the presbytery point of view, we had not been able to find one person who offered the gifts we were looking for. But we were aware of two people who did have the gifts we were looking for and both were looking for part-time ministry,” Ms Bennett said.

“In the end the gifts we now have are probably broader than any one person could have provided.”

Ms Bennett said it was important for the church to remain flexible around the way ministry roles are filled in the future.

Ms Maynard said she is excited by developing the role alongside Ms Savage and accepted they will have to spend time this year helping congregations understand which person is responsible for each particular component of the role.

She recognises it’s important for the pair to stay in touch and keep communicating with one another.

“A job sharing role like this cannot work if one person thinks they know it all. We are both open to being flexible which might mean some of the delineations will change over time,’’ she said.

Ms Savage said being the first people to operate jointly in the role provides the pair with more advantages than disadvantages.

“It is not prescriptive and will allow us to grow into the role and make changes as needed along the way.”

Ms Maynard said as a lay person the opportunity to work in such a role was a real privilege and one she could not have considered without Ms Savage to work alongside.

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