“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” - Mark 4:39
A few years ago, I was asked by Bishop Clements to attend a system training program with other leaders in the greater church. This is where I learned the phrase “non-anxious presence.” Psychologist and Rabbi Edwin Friedman uses this phrase to describe people who can stand in the midst of anxiety that is all around them and not be drawn into it.
Friedman teaches the most effective leaders are those who can be the non-anxious presence in an anxious system (organization or situation). He emphasizes that all systems are, to one degree or another, anxious. A volleyball or softball team, a family, a classroom, a workplace, or a church will experience anxiety. That’s just the way systems are. Anxiety is in their DNA.
Healthy leaders are not those who don’t care about the cause of the anxiety, but they are those who have figured out their own anxiety and processed it in a healthy way so that it doesn’t subject them to inappropriate responses. Healthy leaders don’t “buy into” or allow themselves to be caught up in other peoples’ anxiety.
Friedman also describes the key to this kind of leadership as “presence,” that sense of confidence, calmness, focus, and energy which effective leaders brings to any place they enter. Non-anxious leaders are often faithful and effective but they are not immune to the criticism that can come from anxious people around them.
The gospel reading this week hints to us that the church is called to be a non-anxious presence in the world. The world is also full of anxiety, fear, doubt, and hopelessness. It needs a non-anxious presence. Our mission is to “Reflect Christ in Message and Actions.” Being a non-anxious presence is a way of reflecting Christ.
The good news for us is that Jesus endures that far from ordinary storm with the disciples, and he stays with them as they travel to the other side. This is a reminder that we too can trust Jesus to be with us, especially now! Amen.