The Courage to Lead as Inspired by St. Crispin’s Day

Jesus serves us by opening up new possibilities for being and action that were not open before. As the letter to the Hebrews says ‘We have complete freedom to enter the most holy place by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, a living way through the curtain, through his own body.’

Today is the feast of St. Crispin  and his brother Crispianus. I became aware of these saints because I watched Kenneth Branagah’s ‘Henry V’ and the speech that Henry gives before the battle of Aincourt. I was very moved by it. You know, it goes ‘That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man’s company That fears his fellowship to die with us…’ Later,  the speech ends with ‘For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.’ (Loud Cheers!!)

This speech is designed to put heart into a bunch of weary, outnumbered soldiers facing a huge task. I often feel like one of the soldiers as a priest. The task of striking  some blows for the Gospel, and leading congregations into renewal (which is what you have asked me to do, through your representatives) is a long term task, that takes courage and a touch of heroism.

I quote this speech to myself along with some hymns like ‘Who Would True Valour See’ and Jesus’ words ‘If a person wants to be my disciple, let them take up their cross, deny themselves and follow me’ or this prayer from St. Ignatious of Loyola ‘Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will.’ So tonight I will be watching the  film of the play again.

But the speech also addresses the soldiers. It asks something of them, from their leader, Henry. It asks that they ‘have stomach for this fight’. This kind of request is like John F. Kennedy’s request to the people of the U.S. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. This kind of speech asks of those who are led to ‘get with the programme!’

This is where some difficulty arises when it comes to the Church. I had a conversation with a person recently who did not like what we are trying out. He said ‘You are meant to be our servant!’ This raised for me the question of what it means to be a servant and a leader.

If a leader has no more clue about what the ‘big picture’ is than any one else, then why have the position of leader? A leader has to ‘add value’ if they want to be out the front. They cannot be like the Duke of Plazatoro in ‘The Gondoliers’ who ‘Led his regiment from behind, he found it less exciting’.  Why ask someone to come to be leader with an agreed plan, and then tell them that they have to be  your servant the minute they start leading in directions you had not expected or known about? Jesus as ‘servant’ is the same one who says ‘Follow me’. There is no point in saying ‘Will you be our leader according to the ideas we have heard you speak about’ and then once the leader comes have some say ‘Now we want you to go in another direction, because you are our servant!’

Jesus serves us by opening up new possibilities for being and action that were not open before. As the letter to the Hebrews says ‘We have complete freedom to enter the most holy place by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, a living way through the curtain, through his own body.’
Here is a quote by Mitch McCrimmon, a writer on leadership in business. He says “Leaders who challenge the status quo and demand sacrifices from followers risk rejection which is surely compatible with being selfless.” So a leader who is a servant is one who adds value, and then calls on those who are led to trust the direction that has been set. This is the other side of leadership. The side that asks something of the people who are led.

But if no one follows when the leader says ‘Let’s go here’, then the disconnect between the leader and those who are led is so great that that the relationship may not be able to stand the strain.

This is why I have always worked with the support of the Chaplaincy Council since I have come here. To begin, I produced a document for the selection committee which outlined the kinds of issues I saw that we needed to address. Part of my coming here was based upon a ‘Yes’ from the selection committee about this range of proposals. Below is a quotation of the headings that came from that document.

Questions that occur to me while considering a potential ministry in Montreux

What does becoming a ‘mission parish’ look like?”

How do we configure worship as the ‘point of first contact’

What we have done in the last eighteen months is to explore and experiment with the implications of these questions with the full support of the Chaplaincy council.

The role of the leader in this situation is to call everyone to add their weight and energies to the period of sanctioned experiment that we have instituted so that we will have a range of reasoned views on which to base our evaluation. Here is another invitation from the leader: ‘It is not enough to say ‘I don’t know much about Church but I know what I like’. The whole congregation is asked to address the questions of ‘What does a ‘mission congregation’ look like, and ‘What does it mean for us when we think of ‘worship as the first point of contact for new people’ This is the context in which our experiment is being conducted. If people have other views, then they also need to address the questions ‘How would we increase the participation of the whole congregation if not by doing what we are trying out now?’ ‘How do we facilitate the integration of visitors and new members if not y doing what we are doing now?’

So there is my message to myself and to you on this St. Crispin’s day. It is easy for priests who have to be sensitive to the things of God yet leaders at the same time to become discouraged. I speak to myself today and say ‘That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart.’ Well I’m not departing. But Ito you I invite you on the adventure saying ‘For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.’

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About frpaulsblog

Paul Dalzell isnow a semi-retired priest living in Alexandra, Australia
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3 Responses to The Courage to Lead as Inspired by St. Crispin’s Day

  1. Ken says:

    Thank you for your thoughts re: this speech from Henry V, verry rewarding to read.
    Question: I’m thinking of using this speech & scene as part of a service, but want to make sure that it is scripturally supported in the introduction. Can you recommend any other scriptures that I might reference for this purpose? Thank you so much!

    • frpaulsblog says:

      Dear Ken,

      Scriptural support in the introduction would be a matter of how wide you want to draw the net. ‘Leave the dead to bury the dead, or ‘The one who has put his hand to the plough and looked back is not fit for the Reign of God’ capture the sense of urgency about the speech.’This story shall the good man teach his son’ has echoes in the command in Deuteronomy to remember the stories of God, and bind them on our foreheads etc. But the remembering of God’s story is vital. The other line ‘We few, we happy few’ is a reminder to us about the church who are a ‘few in number'(Epistle of Peter) but who are faithful. I hope thise associations help. If there areany other issues that you’d like to raise, i’m more than happy to have an exchange with you.

  2. distribution says:

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    wants to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.

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