« The Honeymoon: Part II | Main | Episcopal identity and congregational development »

The Honeymoon: Part I

She didn’t survive the honeymoon

There was an article in the NY Times yesterday about Carly Fiorina’s work at Hewlett-Packard. My take on it goes this way – she didn’t survive the honeymoon.

Toward the end of the article is this –

Many employees, however, insisted that they had assumed the best, but over time were disillusioned. …  But Ms. Fazarinc ultimately felt disappointed by Mrs. Fiorina. Old friends kept losing their jobs. HP was becoming a place she no longer recognized.

Mrs. Fiorina, she said, “had people in her hands, ready to help her. But she lost their support.”

But wait! What do you mean “she didn’t survive the honeymoon?”  She was with HP for 5 ½ years.  Yes, that’s right, she was. But the tentacles of disappointment were alive during the honeymoon and she managed those challenges in ways that set the pattern for the coming years. In that sense she didn't survive the honeymoon. 

   The article  


In my diocese

Another part of yesterdays morning reading was a message to clergy from the Canon to the Ordinary on “congregations in transition.”   Thirteen parishes had a new rector, vicar, or long term priest-in-charge – they are beginning the honeymoon.  My own parish was on the list.

What do these thirteen priests and parish face? 


The phases

I think about there being three broad phases in the initial relationship between priest and parish community.

Inflated hopes – Also called “the honeymoon.” The priest tells us how glad he is to be at Saint Mary’s and what a special place it is. We tell the priest we are delighted with his arrival and certain he will provide what we need for this next step on our journey. The focus is on the positive. We give one another the benefit of the doubt. We allow for mistakes. We excuse errors.

Disappointment – The priest discovers what wasn’t acknowledged in the parish profile. The congregation learns what the priest meant when she spoke of an occasional bump in the road in her previous positions.   Both realize what questions they failed to ask in the interviews. Rubs develop in the relationship. The tentacles of those rubs were usually visible in the previous phase.  In some cases the word “disappointment” is too strong for what we experience. Maybe it’s a series of small let downs. But it becomes clear that the honeymoon is over and a state of contentment and fulfillment hasn’t yet arrived.

Realistic Expectations and Relationship – A time of mutual respect and mature stability. We know much more of one another now. We have come to a point of realism about what we expect and acceptance of each other’s human limitations. This phase is the result of hard work around the spiritual and emotional dynamics experienced in the earlier phase. The earlier disappointments were adequately worked through.

       A PDF of Bonding: Priest and Community