• Ross Moughtin

So keep at it, even if no one notices

So today it’s SIAMS! Even as I type these words the Registered Inspector is getting into his car to arrive at our church school for their first meeting at 8.15 am. SIAMS? The world of education more than any other I know is replete with acronyms. Here we have the “Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools.” Basically, how are we doing as a church school? Our head teacher, David, and his staff –especially the SMT, have been working hard to prepare for this inspection ever since they were given due notice last Friday. As chair of the Governing Body I know that Christ Church is a great church school – and we can demonstrate this, certainly helped by our extensive preparation for the diocesan Church and School Partnership Award 2. For me the main value of this exercise is to for the school, especially our hard-working staff and volunteers, is be given recognition for putting the “C of E” into the “Aughton Christ Church C of E Voluntary Controlled Primary School.” For we all need recognition for what we do. It was John Harvey-Jones, when chairman of the now-defunct ICI, who made it his aim “to catch employees out” doing something outstanding. He once sent a bottle of champagne to the driver of a tanker he had overtaken on the M6 for his particularly clean vehicle. In fact, one of the reasons we went to Argentina was to offer support and encouragement to Andrew Leake in his long, drawn-out ministry supporting the indigenous people of the Chaco, a ministry does not grab the headlines, even the endorsement of big names. Few people outside of Argentina know anything about the Chaco. However, while we may value recognition when it comes, the important thing is to keep at it, whatever. And here I quote Abraham Lincoln no less: “Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” The Church of England has a unique ability to produce excellence in the most unlikely and unnoticed places. And as such, to go unrecognised. I remember some years ago reading Andrew Brown (I think), the then religious affairs correspondent for the Guardian. On reflecting on the sermons he had heard (and endured) over the years, he reflected that one of the best sermons he had heard was in a small country church in the Yorkshire Dales. Here in the wilds of the Pennines some vicar was doing their bit for the Kingdom, no doubt appreciated by their small congregations. They deserved the best that this minister of the Gospel could offer. Even if no one else noticed. Certainly no Times “Preacher of the Year” for them! But this is how the Kingdom of God works. Jesus gave two parables about working for the Kingdom when your boss is away in a far-away country. In fact, there is every likelihood that his eventual return is in the far-off future. And what do you do? You keep at it. In the parable of the talents in Matthew’s Gospel the master entrusts his wealth to his servants. “To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.” And then he leaves them to it. Now the punch line is when the servant with just the one bag is caught out for doing nothing with it. “You wicked, lazy servant!” But is worth noticing that the other two servants, the one with five bags who generates a further five along with the second servant who was entrusted with just two bags of gold and who gained two more, are both given the same commendation. For both were equally fruitful, even with different results. “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 20:21/23) It seems that Jesus expects us to serve him in the long grind of ministry without ongoing recognition. Just be faithful – especially if we have but one talent and appear to be outshone by others. We may not be nominated for “worker of the week” award but we are to stay true to our calling. What Eugene Peterson memorably called “a long obedience in the same direction.” But that is not to say that we do not get the recognition we need. It does come, from the person who gave us the responsibility to begin with – and not just at the end. For God does send signs of encouragement – but often in the most unlikely of ways. Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen. So keep at it, even if they don’t say “Thank you.”

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