I think collegiality is important. Whatever ministry we are undertaking, it’s helpful to have others who understand our work, appreciate our work, challenge our work, and support our work. I found this to be the case when I worked in urban-setting team ministries; I find it essential now that I’m serving a rural solo ministry.
Many professions and workplaces set up systems where folks can connect with one another regularly – for networking, for learning, for sharing, for support. Especially where people are working alone, connecting with colleagues can make the tasks at hand seem easier, more fun, etc.
I had the pleasure of several collegial conversations this week. And what pleasures we had. We made plans for collaborative endeavours, we bounced ideas off each other, we shared challenges we face, we offered different viewpoints to various situations. These are things that left us feeling uplifted, supported, and encouraged about our ministries. Informally, we shared personal anecdotes, book suggestions, jokes, and honest friendship. These left us feeling loved, cherished, not alone.
My experience of collegial gatherings is that they are what we want them to be, regardless of location. If people choose to spend time with colleagues, they are seeking out that professional and social support system. People who choose to avoid such gatherings, either through non-attendance or non-engagement, are missing out. They’re missing out on the benefits of healthy communication, of possible mentoring opportunities, of potential collaborations. In short, they’re denying themselves a possibility of improving themselves and their ministry.
It can be intimidating to open up with colleagues – we’re not always friends, we’re not always in agreement. But if we engage with our colleagues, we’re also not alone. We have someone to turn to for help in the dark times, someone to assist us when life throws us off course, someone who can lighten the load just by being there. These are the folks who will try to keep us on track, if we let them. They will try to hold up the mirror so we can see ourselves as they do. They will be the voice from outside the situation when we are too enmeshed within it to see clearly. They will do all this and more: and we will do the same for them. Even Jesus highlighted the importance of doing our ministry together – he sent his disciples in pairs, he encountered them in groups. Those found alone were welcomed in – as colleagues.
So here’s to our colleagues, who not just TOOK time to meet but MADE time to meet. Here’s to those who understand that the non-empirical benefits of collegiality are tremendous and long-lasting. Here’s to the long lunches, the sermon discussions, the life stories shared over Scrabble. Here’s to the colleagues that are blessings in my life – may your lives be blessed as well.