Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The P and E files

P is for paper. E is for electronic.

I made a pilgrimage of sorts last week to the home of our minister emeritus to peruse his files. Rev. MacPherson has over 50 years of ministerial files that are better organized, more useful, and more diverse than the mess of 14 years of ministerial flotsam I call a filing cabinet.

I had serious file envy. In addition to being labeled, alphabetized, and separated by drawers according to theme, many of the pieces of paper are identified by the date filed and the date used in services. I was swooning by the end of the tour.

Rev. MacP is from a different era, and within that era he was a unique bird. So I do not imagine that I want to go back in time to be a minister in the 1950s. The sex change alone...

While looking through the evidence of another ministry, however, I was struck by how different ministry has become. Rev. MacP's files reflect the changes he saw - from stencilling to xerox, from photo to slide, from biblical quotes to satirical cartoons on service covers - he had to roll with several changes in technology and worldview himself.

But I cannot imagine having the time to do the meticulous work he did to keep these files. He was no office mole, either. He was active in the community and with his congregants. He and his wife hosted events at their home. He travelled for ministerial training. I, on the other hand, with all the benefits of technology... am swamped. And I am always looking for something I can't find.

I've asked the gender question. What if I hadn't been pregnant or nursing for 39 months of my career? Or what might I be had I been married to the venerable Dottie MacP? Or what any of us might be capable of with a partner like that? I have a great partner but he also has a great full-time job and community obligations of his own. The expectations of a male partner in 2008 are way different than the expectations of a 1950's "minister's wife".

I have asked the personality question. I know other ministers who are still in full-time ministry who have great filing systems. I hate them. (Just kidding. Again - it's the envy talking. I hate that you don't visit and get bossy with my files.)

And I have asked the E question. Do I have more information in my two computers, external hard drive, this blog, Facebook, and now YouTube than could fit in a file cabinet? Am I well-organized in a non-visible way? (HA! That's great. I'm using that again. "It's not clutter. I'm organized in a non-visible way!")

The E files are a big part of it. But there is alot to say for the P files. I am making up a faux library card to check out P files from Rev. MacP. I am inspired and enriched by the content of his files, but the files themselves are inspirational, too - their mere existence and permanence. I just don't get the same feeling scrolling through my virtual folders and directories.

Let me close with a personal note, E style: Happy 80th Birthday, Rev. David MacPherson. You have been an inspiration to me for 23 years. I am honored to know you as a mentor, colleague and friend. Keep up with those computer classes!

1 comment:

Earthbound Spirit said...

The Rev. MacP was the first UU minister I ever knew! I envy your access to his brain & his files (altho I have an internship supervisor with a pretty awesome set of files, too). Please let him know a former congregant, now seminarian, wishes him a wonderful 80th!