Voting – What Happened in my church

· Thankfully, voting is not done very often in most churches. This is because the matters the church is principally concerned with have very little to do with the democratic process. When members of a church are asked to vote, it is often driven by extraneous and unusual (i.e. infrequent) reasons. Voting therefore cannot be a tool to communicate any principles or a medium to promote any characteristics. It does however provide an opportunity for members to engage each other in a manner which best reflects what a church is, which is the family of God.

· The church is called to be holy – “called out”/”separate” because God is holy. The manner in which a church seeks to use every opportunity to demonstrate its “separateness” or difference, will set itself up to live in obedience to the scriptures. We are asked to not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewal of our mind. It is a constant challenge to look at everything we do and ask ourselves if as a church, we ought to be choosing options which best reflects who and what the church is and demonstrate this difference.

· The process of identifying persons to serve as members of a church board varies and depends on factors which range from very fluid considerations (such as the state of relationships between members) to very objective ones such as legal and logistics requirements or considerations. In our church, we are required to elect our board members in a members’ meeting. This election requires every member to be given the opportunity to “personally” vote. There are no prescriptions beyond that.

· Hence as a board member I have a duty and discretion to consider the manner of electing board members. In so doing, I looked at the normal voting process adopted by (1) churches; (2) comparable organisations in terms of size and activities; and (3) generally for organisations which require election of board members. I also looked at what a church is and what it can do to best reflect the nature and characteristics of a church.

· Historically voting is by a show of hands. This convention has continued to this day. Companies, sporting and community clubs, associations and political parties all practice this method of voting. However, as this manner of voting is transparent, it is subject to threats and intimidation, coercion and such other elements where voters come under the undue influence of parties with an interest in the outcome which may not be shared by the voting members. To overcome such influence, secret ballot is often adopted. It allows voters to vote free of such undue influence. Secret ballots are particularly useful and effective in Australia at union elections, where the practice of undue influence abounds.

· There are pros and cons for either process. As a board member, I recognised that secret ballot provides members with greater confidence in expressing his or her choice. This however, comes at the cost of engagement by the voting member with the person being elected as well as with the general body of members. The Board considered the advantages of providing members with confidence of expression and the challenge of using an opportunity to facilitate an engagement which reflects what the church ought to be, i.e. a family where there is a genuine relationship and members seek to build each other up.

· In particular, I urged the Board to encourage members to put aside the comfort which secrecy provides, in exchange for a truthful engagement with the aim of building relationships. In some ways, this can be considered a step up in the sense that it challenges members to engage the candidate and other members at large, should his or her choice entail that.

· The Board recognises that a member faced with a show-of-hand form of voting, may vote in a manner which does not truthfully represent his or her choice. Such a member however, has a choice of either voting in a manner which avoids the issue (by voting contrary to his or her true intentions) or remaining true to his or her intention and proceeding to engage the candidate as to the reason for his or her choice.

· This may cause many other levels of interaction such as between the voting member and the candidate’s family or members close to that candidate. Such interaction however, can be a positive thing which ought to be encouraged. The alternative is to rely on the protection of secrecy and ridding the need for engagement. Just as importantly, a showing of hands also allows the candidate to approach the voting member to seek engagement with a view of correcting any flaws the candidate has but may not have seen for himself. It allows the member to share his or her view with the candidate in this regard. The secret ballot also denies the candidate this opportunity.

· In making preparation for the general meeting, the board considered the above matters and decided to adopt a show of hands as the form of voting. Unfortunately there wasn’t the opportunity for the above matters to be shared with the other leaders of the church, prior to the general meeting. This meant the very real challenge of open engagement as a core objective, was not presented to leaders to be shared with members, prior to the general meeting.

· At the general meeting, some members chose to exclude themselves from the voting process altogether. I do not know if this was because they did not like an open expression of their choice. A leader expressed her opinion in that general meeting that she didn’t agree with the process adopted.

· The board in reviewing the general meeting, felt that as a result of that opinion expressed in that general meeting, there was a need to respond to members generally. Following that meeting cell leaders were asked to invite feedback from cell members. This feedback extracted more opinions of preference for the secret ballot method. The board’s reason for adopting the show of hands method was never presented outside the board safe for some explanatory comments made in response to the leader’s question raised in that general meeting after the voting had taken place.



Winter Wonderland

It felt cold when I woke up this morning. Sure enough, the “weatherzone” app said it was 4 deg. The awful toothache last night made me feel more vulnerable than usual so I got the coat out although usually the cold is well managed by the post gym and train heating combo. I’m glad I did. Although the 50mins on the cross trainer generated a lot of sweat and endorphins, by the time I tossed the gym bag in the boot of the car and swapped it for the “Harry Hoard”, I could feel the cold. I was glad I got the coat out. It’s the last day of autumn but it felt like winter wasn’t going to wait for an invitation.

Tress and I went to an Indian joint last night. After 2 nights of wonderful noodle soup at home, the usual running out of idea dilemma hit us so we opted to explore our own backyard. Ganesha’s is a little joint just across the station and we’ve driven past it daily for years but somehow never got around to patronising it. It was an ok place and I guess I wouldn’t mind going back at some point. The naan however was a bit chewy and the lamb in the lamb korma was a little tougher than I expected it to be. I suspect that was at least partially responsible for the toothache.

We had gone for dinner straight from the station and hadn’t gone home and so we got home late and with the toothache bugging me I didn’t take the little black jedi out for his walk. I felt really bad for him but I simply wasn’t up to it. Tress said she feels sorry for him now, because he’s home alone a lot these days. Tress and I are both out of the house by 7am and we’re not home till close to 6pm earliest. He seems a little different now, although when we’re watching tv in the lounge room at night he often sits at our feet or on the couch with us, or even on our laps – that is when he expects to be scratched, especially just behind the ear. We’re always glad to oblige.

When we got to bed I started to read a bit and had kiddo’s message flashed across the top of the screen. She sounded like she was about to embark on one of those fun all-nighters trying to finish up a biggish essay with the clock appear to be ticking a lot quicker than usual. I tried to encourage her a bit, but woke up this morning to find her still slaving away but somehow still finding time to let others know her sentiments as she pushes her way through and along in this journey.

I guess the take away is that it’s the season for work and in the course of our respective work areas, we’re recasting and reshaping our lives – Tress and I here in Melbourne and returning each night to a house with just the both of us and the little black jedi and Kiddo in Canberra in her well heated room and facilities amidst the very cold surroundings. This is the best part of winter for me.


Settling Down, Checking Out

Tress and I were in the same car on the train home last night. It was however, so crowded that I could not make my way to where she was standing. So she and I could see each other but there were maybe 15 or so people between us, within a distance of maybe 5 or 6 metres. That’s how congested trains in Melbourne are today.

We got home and I walked the little black jedi, while Tress cooked a wonderful dinner of noodle soup with yong tofu. It was a near perfect dinner. The little pooch was very excited with the walk last night. It was just after 6 but it was already nearly pitch dark. I thought he behaved differently to the other times when I walked him. Maybe the dark brought about different scents. Maybe the possums were out in full strength and my little champion pooch knew and his senses were heightened as a result. I thought I heard them on trees and the fact that Scruff stopped several times and looked up some trees confirmed my suspicion. The half hour walk was certainly more interesting than it normally was, and I got home very ready for the noodle soup. It was delicious.

As satisfying as the dinner was however, I had trouble going to bed early – must have been the coffee I had just before 4 that arvo.

Life is slowly settling down to a certain pattern for Tress and I now. I’m not sure what shape that would take eventually, but I can sense the process taking place. We both just want to go to work, have our time off after work and at weekends, and catch up with kiddo whenever she can. We want to play a part in our local church but only in a way which doesn’t create any angst particularly for me. That will almost certainly mean I leave the board sooner rather than later, and maintain my involvement at the cell at the most. Even that will cease at some point, probably before too long. I have now been doing this cell thing for a few years now, and it was by default. The cell leader had left the church and the cell coordinator did not appoint any replacement and I ended up “carrying the can” and I haven’t found the opportunity to revisit this role since.

I guess it would be an understatement to say I am presently no longer convinced an active involvement in the local church scene is necessary or even beneficial. The Board has come across as an irrelevance, even a nuisance. The activities which appear to be happening feel like they are disconnected from the articulated vision, and I have no idea what is being done which is part of where the church was meant to be heading. It would be better to park all of that sort of consideration and simply turn up each Sunday, spend time with other believers, listen to the sermon and go home for that weekend rest. I have a feeling I am not alone in feeling this way.

Frustrating Church Governance

I continue to despair over what appears to be a frustrating knot in the church board.

We had a board meeting last week, a meeting I should have ceased attending since December of last year. I’m still hanging on, having avoided further angst in insisting I left the board – one which I have been frustrated with.

In the meeting last week it happened again and found myself just at a loss of where/what we’re onto.

There was an agenda of clarifying vision. When someone else asked why we needed this agenda at this point in time, it was suggested that we still had differing values and we couldn’t decide on a number of things as a result. How this apparent non-decision necessitated a vision clarification was something I could not understand and asked if it could be discussed further.

It turned out – or it appeared to be the case – that the source of this revisit was issues with spending approvals. How questions on spend requests lead to a need to clarify vision is still beyond me. The church had a vision – has one.

The unfortunate fact is that little has been done to flesh it out.

The vision was a “DC3” depiction – discipleship in a multi-cell, multi congregation and multi community context. Given that vision I would have expected a concerted effort to build the cell ministry as a start. We had next to no drive to build on whatever cell activities that had pre-existed the current history of this church. The several times I tried to utilise the cell platform – by disseminating snippets of information on missionaries etc – to cell leaders have been met with completely muted response. There was one single cell leaders meeting with little or no follow up plans, programs or activities.

We had instead, a number of what appears to be unconnected parcels of programs. How these were connected to the vision were not articulated or sold. It all seems like prescribing something for a totally different condition, and the Board continue to be made out as an irrelevance while all the while it was said it was the pastor’s first team.

The frustration continues…


New Digs

A week has passed in my role. I now have a very convenient commuting arrangement, albeit nothing beats a leisurely 10 minute drive in suburbia, as in my previous role. The office, building is directly across the road from the station. This is the closest I have ever been to the station and the absence connecting commute is liberating.

The eastern end of central CBD is often known as the Paris end and although this applied particularly to Collin Street, one feels a bit of this label further up from Collin as well. The abundance of theatre, high end labels, old eateries as well as older architecture such as the Windsor, Spring Street and the Exhibition building, all lend to a Eurocentric genteel aura.

All that air of being on the high end of town came crashing down late yesterday afternoon however, when a colleague warned me of the mouse plague the building is accursed with. Apparently someone has seen a dead mouse on our floor and many have had their cereal box chewed through. So everyone has been asked to keep any foodstuff stored in drawers to be boxed up in proper sealed containers. My little box of sultana raisins promptly went back to my briefcase last night when I left the office…


I finished up with Steer on 30 April. While I am glad to move on to something which is hopefully more engaging and fills up my time more as well as pays better, I left with regrets that I have not enjoyed or cherished my time at Steer as much as I hoped. While it wasn’t financially rewarding, theoretically I was doing work more for the Lord than for anyone else.

I guess that was where the challenge resided. I had to look beyond all of the circumstances presented by men, the office and the day-to-day happenings, to a state of mind where I could readily accept that notwithstanding everything my physical, emotional, intellectual and mental states presented, it was a ministry I was in. Or meant to be in. I just wasn’t ready for that. I had to get out before the visible, tangible setbacks I felt became long standing stumbling blocks of my relationship with God and the work that requires or calls for.

After finishing up on 30/4, I left for Malaysia on 1/5. Tress dropped me off at the Tullamarine airport early on 1/5 and I arrived at the low cost terminal at KL airport late on that same afternoon. I boarded a taxi and on the way to Klang, I texted and called a few people, including my in laws and my brother.

I arrived at my in-laws’ home, where I was to stay for the week I was to be there, around 5.30. I had dinner with Tress’ parents that night before getting ready for the next few days.

From Wednesday 2/5 on till Friday that same week, I traversed PJ, KL and Putrajaya. I hopped from the EPF office in PJ to the head office of the Public Bank as well as to the Registration and Justice departments of the administrative capital in Putrajaya.

I was focused and busy with my EPF matters and it all got done by Friday afternoon. The last of the administrative details were tidied up on Monday 7/5 and I left on the night of Tuesday 8/5 and headed home to Melbourne.

Other than the business stuff, I managed to catch up with a bunch of people. I met my grandmother several times, met my Dee Koh and Uncle Shu, Uncle Ah Keat, 4 Ee Tiu, Tua Ee, Sar Ee, Siow Peng as well as my brother and his wife Jean. I attended the Klang Chinese Methodist Church on that Sunday I was there and caught up with a bunch of members, I later had coffee with CP Tan and Eric Tong, and was told of their new found work amongst the aboriginal people in the Malaysian peninsular.

I have also learned of different things happening to a number of relatives, not all of them good. Life is often not anywhere near a box of chocolates. The most awful things happen to the best souls at the worst possible times. How that cause people to either be bitter and cynical or respond in humble submission and acknowledgment of a supreme being, is often a mystery until one finds the time to sit down and listen and empathise.

I have also become very aware of how grateful I really am, with the time I have with people like my grandma and Tress’ parents. I spent a fair bit of time with each of them this time, and just cherished the moments.

I got home on the morning of Wednesday 9 May, got home and after about a day and a half of resting and getting back to home routine, we took off again this time to Sydney via Canberra. We left early on Friday morning and dropped the little black jedi off at Heather’s and left just before 8am. After negotiating atrocious traffic through the middle ring road we got out of Melbourne and only stopped for lunch hear Yass close to 2pm. We got to Canberra just after 3, picked kiddo up and left Canberra again an hour later.

We got into Sydney around 7.30pm and after a hearty dinner, we went back to the hotel and I was extremely grateful for a comfortable bed. We got to the wedding at the Crossway Anglican church close to our hotel in Parramatta and enjoyed the company of yet more family. We got back to the hotel and although we have intended to go out for a little bit, I crashed out and snoozed for the whole arvo, getting up only just before 5. We left the hotel around 5.30 and go to the dinner venue in the city just before 7, after getting lost while trying to find the blooming Marriot near the harbour.

The dinner was again a wonderful time of catching up with family. We took loads of photos and I was seated next to my uncle Thomas, who told me wonderful stories about his work with Muslims in Auburn as well as their recent holiday in Turkey. We talked with many relatives and only got home close to 12am.

The next morning we left the hotel before 9am, drove to Goulburn for a short break of pies and coffees with kiddo before pushing to Canberra and saying goodbye to her again. She’d be home in the second week of June so it wasn’t too bad and the drive home to Melbourne was extremely trying. I stayed awake by loads of fluids and thankfully we got home just after 8pm.

I started my new role yesterday and thankfully it was a full day’s induction so there was no real work. Another chapter…

Back (in more ways than one)

Exiting a “ministry” role in Steer is different to leaving any other role or organization. You keep wondering if you should dig in regardless. The underwhelming nature of the role however, coupled with a changed home equation, meant rationally it was the right thing to do.

I head off o Malaysia today for a week, then to Sydney for a few days, before starting with Super Partners, back in a legal role.