Leading from the second chair

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Leading from the second chair

September 2021

In a recent series on Leadership, the Revd Andrew Appiah (Ry. 2017–19), discussed some of the challenges and joys of being a curate. What follows is an extract of some of the wisdom and advice he shared.

I think it's a joy and a delight to sit in the second chair and to know that the buck doesn’t stop with you — you're not the final decision taker. But, of course, the parishioners don't always understand that. And so, they come to you, needing an answer to this, or some direction with that — and sometimes you can help, but other times you need to realise that it’s healthy to always remember you aren’t the incumbent; you are the curate.

And you're there in the second chair to hold those tensions. So, if one parishioner comes to you complaining about another, you need to hold that gently and kindly and make sure you are not feeding into that, that your response to that is not aggravating things, is not stirring things up. Hold it in love and gentleness, perhaps discuss it with your incumbent, rather than thinking that you need to respond.

You don't have to say something in every situation; there are some things we need to just hold. And, for me, some of that maturity came from my learning at Ridley, because in the community sometimes we find tensions in our conversations and between people, but you don't always rush into things and respond each and every time. Sometimes it's better to hold things together and channel it properly.

So, for curates like me, these are some of the real issues on the ground, the practical issues that we need to deal with. By God's grace we will have the wisdom to deal with these things, but at the same time I think we need to consciously remind ourselves we are curates, and not get ourselves trapped in unhealthy conversations.