Wednesday, 19 October 2011

An Endless Knot

I have stumbled across a living Endless Knot.

In the ancient Celtic world, and in Buddhist symbolism too, the endless knot is a reminder of the interconnectedness of all life.

Celtic Knots represent the intertwining or interweaving of two souls or spirits in undying love, as well as the mystery of no beginning and no end.  Figures of people and animals interweaving as a knot remind us of the interdependence of all creation.  Two or more strands laced together in an endless knot speak of humanity finding union with God, or of lovers pledging faithfulness.  Circle knots represent eternity and the cycles of life; and triangular knots of the Holy Three (Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit), or of the natural unity of earth, sea and sky.

In Buddhism the Endless knot is a reminder of the connecting of all life in a continuum of cause and effect – ie, what goes around comes around.  It represents simplicity and harmony, the interplay and interaction of opposing forces, like a mammalian circulatory system.  It offers the understanding of oneness as the foundational reality of existence.  It depicts the flowing of time and movement within the greater reality of eternity, and it reminds us of the hidden connections between apparently separate things – our private prayer life and our public professional life, for example.

Because the knot has no end, it also functions as a reminder of divine wisdom and compassion, since they too are ever-flowing and endless and permeate all life.

Well – get this – I have discovered a really truly living Endless Knot!

Early in the Spring I undertook to be the secretary of our PCC (church council) at St John the Evangelist.  I thought I could do this okay, as I am familiar with the same layer of governing structures in the Methodist Church, and have been the Chair of the Church council in several Methodist Chapels during the years when I was a minister.

In the Methodist system, this is what happens.  Twice a year the Church Council meets.  At one of these meetings (so, annually) reports are received from the various groups within the church.  The secretary to the meeting takes notes and writes them up in the minute book, reading them out at the next meeting to be approved.  If any group fails to send in a report, the secretary would minute ‘no report’.  I thought it would be the same in the Church of England.  Hahahahaha no.

This is what happens.  Let me run you through from my first meeting.

23rd May we had a Standing Committee.  My job was to create and circulate its agenda, take notes and create minutes from them and circulate these to its members have first submitted them to our rector (the Chair of the Standing Cttee and the PCC) for his approval.  The Standing Committee exists to prepare for the PCC, and is therefore a sub-committee of the PCC, drawing up the agenda and making sure all aspects of church life are in suitably pre-digested form for the PCC to assimilate in 2 hours or less. 

So in a plastic wallet folder in the big file I then stash the minutes of the Standing Cttee,  on (say) the 24th May.

I have to send out the papers and agenda for the PCC about 7-10 days in advance, so I did that on May 27th or so.

6th June we had the PCC meeting for which the Standing Cttee had prepared, using the agenda that I created and circulated on May 27thish from the notes I made at the Standing Cttee on 23rd May, and the preparatory papers that I circulated from those garnered at the Standing Cttee.  In addition to circulating all papers in the first place I print and take copies for all members who have forgotten to bring theirs, don’t check their email, or check but don’t print off the papers.

So 7th June I typed up my notes from the PCC and stashed them in a plastic wallet folder in the big file.  But wait.  The minutes I have stashed have to be signed – but they can’t be signed until the next meeting of the PCC when they have been read and approved.

Then sometime in the first week of July I have to circulate all members of the Standing Cttee with a reminder that the next meeting is coming up.

Then 11th July we have another Standing Ctte for the PCC meeting of 25th July (my birthday – what a treat that was!), send out agendas, prepare PCC agenda, gather papers, take notes, create minutes and get them approved, stashing everything from this meeting in a plastic wallet folder in the big file

Then on 18th July I circulate all members with the papers and a reminder that the PCC will be happening.

25th July is the PCC, and I must make sure to remember to get the minutes out of the plastic folder for the PCC of 6th June (which by now is 6 weeks and 3 meetings back) so that they can be signed when the PCC has approved them and then put back in the file.  Meanwhile the minutes from this meeting will be similarly checked and stashed but can’t be signed off until the meeting of the PCC taking place on 19th September after the Standing Cttee of the 5th September that precedes it.

Reminder & circulate, Standing Cttee, Get minutes checked, File all papers, Reminder & circulate, PCC,  Get last PCC minutes signed, Get new minutes checked, File all papers.  That’s the cycle.

I am just now preparing for my 4th PCC meeting, coming up on October 24th.  In so doing I got in a terrible panic.  I went through the file to check everything was in order, and it wasn’t.  The minutes I had for 23rd may and 6th June weren’t signed copies, the minutes for September 19th hadn’t been signed either, I only had a signature on the July 25th meeting, and some of the folders contained no supporting papers, and some of the papers seemed to have the wrong date for the meetings of the folders in which they were filed.  Gasp! 

Well, it took me about two and a half hours, but finally I understood. 

The previous secretary, handing over in the Spring, told me I had to have two files – a secretary’s one that I keep and a vestry file.  She said the present vestry file was full and I’d need a new one.  So I set all this up, got a file for the vestry and put in the signed copies of the first two PCC meetings (23rd May and 6th June).  I duly took it to the vestry and guess what – not only was the old file full but so was the drawer it lived in.  I asked someone what to do, and she said when she had been PCC secretary she didn’t bother stashing anything in the vestry, she just kept it at home until she passed it on.  So then I didn’t know what to do, and in July and September I just kept the minutes in my own file while I thought about it.  But the signed minutes for 23rd May and 6th June are in the file I made that I stashed in my in-tray in the vestry because there didn’t seem to be anywhere else to put it.  And the minutes for 19th September haven’t been signed because we haven’t had the next meeting yet – it’s on 24th October, and they will be signed then.  Relief!!

And the reason the papers seem to be in the wrong files is because a) the papers relating to the Standing Ctte relate to both the PCC they precede and (in some instances) the PCC they follow – and b) of course some ongoing issues and projects span several Standing Cttees and PCCs as they slowly progress.  And, some papers (like the Financial Account and the Fabric report) will be dated the month before the meeting where they will be presented – or even the month before that if the PCC is at the beginning of the month, because they will have been presented at the Standing Cttee occurring about two weeks before the PCC and will have had to be drawn up and sent to me in time to circulate the members of the Standing Cttee a week before it takes place.  So I hadn’t lost anything, and I just had to decide for myself where in the rhythm of the dance to insert the wodge of papers each time.

As I slowly got my head round this huge circulatory system, it dawned on me that the whole thing is a massive Endless Knot mandala weaving in and out and around the life and worship of St Johns, holding all things together, keeping continuity and accountability. 

Looking more deeply, and allowing panic and natural aversion to subside, I saw that it was beautiful.

I have sent for some earrings with Endless Knots carved in yak bone from Nepal, to put on as part of my mindfulness preparations for each meeting of the Standing Cttee and the PCC.  


Gerry Snape said...

Great post...and funny! On knots..I collect the cast offs that the fishermen drop in the sea and then get washed up on beaches. So symbolic.
Also I have a buddist knot with my name written in chinese, to keep a place in the Proverbs that I read each day. The Aran knitters knew a thing or two!

DaisyAnon said...

LOL!!! So funny. Thanks for the humour.

I have had experience of this sort of endless thing in the Anglican church, but I could not see any beauty in it. It was all an appalling waste of time and energy.

I have had a sort of reverse experience recently. Doing some work over the last year for a small Methodist congregation. NO MEETINGS! How does anything get decided? Well, we just do it and twice a year there is a meeting. How wonderfully relaxing. How trusting of the dear Methodist people.

Ganeida said...

Lol I stood in for our secretary for a bit. Never putting my hand up again. I love Endless Knots ~ so long as they aren't paper chains!

Julie B. said...

I just got up this morning about an hour ago. But now after reading this post I feel I must go lie down and take a nap.


Bella said...

Hmm. Makes the Quaker way of writing the minutes as part of the Meeting for Worship for Business, and agreeing them there and then, pretty attractive methinks!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi friends!

Yes, Bella, I love the Quaker way of putting a minute; and I like the simpler, more peaceful Methodist way of doing things, Daisyanon.
Gerry, I love the idea of your collection of fishermen's knots!
Ganeida, I thought of you and 'Ganeida's Knots' while I was doing this - and Julie B I knew you would understand from your own herculean efforts at admin for a very complicated household!

paula said...


I don't like being tied up in knots, and I feel your suffering, Pen. While I read this post, I felt like that knot was a noose.

Pen Wilcock said...

Heh heh - yes, all part of life's rich tapestry!

Fourwheeler said...

I echo Bella's comment re the Quaker way. when I was briefly involved with the Quakers in Norfolk, the phrase that the clerk there used was, 'I'd like to try a minute.' I found this a delightful compromise between the definitive and the accommodating.

And in contrast to the Anglican contortions, I've been a committee member of my Family History Society branch for a number of years, and we've never had a single meeting - the group is so small, things just 'happen'. It's lovely!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Yes, I enjoyed the meetings of little country chapels where the church council basically meat 'everybody', and involved a cup of tea.

Michelle said...

Hello Pen: MIchelle Wilbert here; I lost you on Facebook! What happened? I hope all is well and that you'll be back soon. Peace, Michelle

Penny Reeve said...

Hi Pen/Ember,
Just hoping you are ok. I've noticed over the last few days how your f b posts disappeared and now you're profile has too.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Michelle, hi Penny! So sweet of you to drop by and enquire.
I have been making a few changes to the way I do things, and decided after much hesitation that Facebook should be one of the changes. I have found Facebook to be a good place for connecting and standing up for good causes - and wonderful for discovering good YouTube videos and interesting journalism.

BUT . . . I also find Facebook very distressing, on 2 counts. I find the hatred and ruthlessness expressed very disturbing and quite horrifying really. For example, recently a friend posted an old story from April of this year about a policeman who had been macing protesters indiscriminately, and was caught on camera spraying mace into the eyes of a child standing quietly as a bystander. This was shocking obviously, but not as shocking as the stream of comments following - calling for him to be brutalised in a number of ways including being skinned alive. And the policeman's name had been made public.
As well as the hatred, I find some links dizzyingly distressing. Yesterday a video (I didn't watch it) was posted showing a toddler who had wandered away from her mother in a busy shopping street in China. Not one but two cars ran her over, and shoppers ignored the incident and her injured body lying in the street as they continued to go about their business. Eventually an operative whose job was to empty rubbish picked her up and took her to hospital, where she later died. Her mother was distraught.
The information did not surprise me as it accorded with what I had heard from a friend whose son lives in China, but it distressed me more than I can describe.
Though I recognise that little is accomplished by turning one's face away, I also accept being caught off balance by such posts as these every time I go on Facebook is beyond what I feel able to process.
So I have made the decision to stop my account. I may still call into Facebook from time to time, but I feel it's too much for me at the moment.
Penny, I have made a note in my emails of the link to your website so I can contact you via the 'contact' option there, and Michelle I see your blogger profile gives an email address, which I have added to my email contacts. I will send you both my personal email address so you can stay in touch other than via this blog spot if you wish :0)

Penny Reeve said...