Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, by Emma Percy. Reviewed by Michael Lofthouse

What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, by Emma Percy.

SPCK, 2014, 176pp, ISBN 978-0-281-07024-4. £12.99

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Reviewed by Michael Lofthouse

what-clergy-doThe title of the book fails to do justice to the contents. This is not just a narrative about doing – it is also substantially about how, who, when and why.

I have found that ambivalence towards management is a peculiar clerical affectation. Indeed in Percy’s opening she is careful to distance herself, at least in part, from managerialism. Yet throughout the book I found direct connections to the business of creating, sustaining and managing a thriving and relevant Church. At a very early stage of the journey through the book, the issues surrounding Church leadership are effectively addressed. It is not too soon before the all to important topics of administration and process are tackled. Whilst other topics, that are the centre of debate in good organisations outside of the Church, such as collaboration, valuing individuals and conflict resolution and many more are also addressed; a book of considerable depth.

This is a book that has been commendably written from the heart as well as the head. A digestible and effective mix of story, experience, imagery and academic reference anchors. The latter providing an extra legitimacy to the arguments being presented but not overdone. Indeed I found myself captured by the real life examples provided by Percy as a direct result of her life as a Priest. These stories added a poignancy and legitimacy to the book that was powerful. The imagery presented at every important stage of the book was always well placed.

The books centrality is founded on drawing parallels between the role of a mother and that of a parish Priest. As Percy states this maternal metaphor provides a rich way of integrating the mundane and mystical, the practical and spiritual and the being and doing. She is right. It allows Percy to create a journey that is fresh and directly encourages a reflective practice approach. Importantly Percy provides the opportunity to engage with what is effective parish ministry through the presentation of, for what will be for many, a new language that resonates with the modern context of local Church life. A language based on the familiarity of mothering. It is not surprising therefore that a maternal language, such as weaning, cherishing and comforting, features strongly and powerfully in the book. Whist formulas for success are studiously avoided, the opportunities to reflect upon and create effective ministry are legion.

I have read many books on Church leadership and management. Seldom have I encountered one that was as readable: an interesting, informative and captivating read. You would have to have your head buried deep in a backward looking Church not to at least be prompted to reflect upon viewing effective ministry from a fresh perspective after reading this book.

Michael Lofthouse is happily retired, but just as busy as ever. Working through Cranfield Trust providing management consultancy to charitable organisations. Active in his local church, deanery and as a member of Rochester Diocesan Synod. But importantly, as an active grandfather.

This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 28 in October 2014.

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