Getting communication right

District chairs and district officers are likely to be involved in a range of ecumenical meetings - with 'opposite numbers' at county and regional level; at county ecumenical councils; and at more specific meetings e.g. in relation to the Anglican-Methodist Covenant in your area.

Particular care needs to be taken over arrangements. Mistakes can undermine working relationships, so here are some ways of avoiding them.

  • Do not let a secretary/PA/officer imply to ecumenical colleagues that you alone have a full diary or a heavy work-load.
  • Do help a secretary/PA/officer understand the ecumenical structures and representatives with whom he/she is dealing.
  • Encourage a secretary/PA/officer to get to know those working in the offices of Partner Church leaders - much negotiating of dates can be done this way.
  • Encourage a secretary/PA/officer to build up a working relationship with the district ecumenical officer(s) and with the county (or equivalent) ecumenical officer(s), as a resource for technicalities or uncertainties.
  • Ensure there is a regularly updated list of church leaders/representatives for your area, with correct titles for their role.
  • Set up an email database for church leaders/representatives for easy, speedy communication - especially for media enquiries.
  • Try to have 'equals' handling the detail i.e. church leader to church leader; secretary to secretary. It is not good to get this consistently out of balance.
  • Make the same distinction between using the office and home phone numbers of other church leaders as you would wish for yourself - and learn a spouse's Christian name!
  • As a general rule, be sure to take your diary to an ecumenical meeting.
  • Arrangements for church leaders/representatives meetings are often made at the meeting. Only agree a date if you are sure you can manage it. This is a particular discipline for those who normally agree meeting dates through their office.
  • It is better to fix dates for the meeting beyond the next one - otherwise you can find yourself caught in a recurring pattern of absences.
  • If you fix a date whilst at a meeting, be sure to tell your office, so that it goes firmly in the diary.
  • Dates for ecumenical meetings should be regarded as having the same priority as other meetings - they should not be treated as dispensable.
  • These practical disciplines are central to ecumenical courtesy - mistakes can usually be forgiven; being muddled or casual affects working relationships as well as personal ones.

(This note could usefully be copied to district officers and superintendents)

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