Wednesday, 2 July 2008
With ACAS at Flixborough today. The Bishop of Grimsby and Archdeacon got most of the Deanery Lay Chairs and Rural Deans from their patch together for an annual attempt to work at something, and we had determined that conflict resolution is the something with which we’re too often engaged. It appears that ACAS, whose first work in the 1970s was dominated by corporate disputes, spends most time today on conciliation with individuals, and their trainers took us through good practice in mediation.
Of course being a paid worker alongside volunteers can skew things, and they reminded us that situations of power imbalance are among those where mediation can be less easy or even inappropriate. I can think of situations in which people could have coped with situations I’ve created better if a third party had helped, but they have drifted away instead because seeking to resolve this sort of thing with the Rector in this sort of way didn’t even seem a possibility, and I’m sad about my degree of responsibility for that. I can also think of situations where my potential mediating role as Rural Dean is a little compromised by the fact that I’m partly an interested party in anything in the deanery.
The other obvious problem is that much of the conflict around us isn’t really resolvable at all in any conventional senses. It arises from the changes people dislike but which are an inevitable part of the changing situation in which we are caught up. The harder I try to help people face the need to address some of this the greater the hit on determination and morale seems to be, so the attempt doesn’t always feel like a net gain.
Anyway, the venue was a good discovery. One of the farms worst hit by recent flooding has diversified by converted redundant outbuildings into a pleasant centre for meetings and training. The Fenestra Centre (it has lots of windows, and education is about opening windows) is almost opposite the village church in whose churchyard is the memorial which is pictured above commemorating the twenty eight people killed in the chemical plant explosion on 1st June 1974; the Lay Chair from Grimsby who came with me remembers the windows rattling as far away as here that day.