Sunday, November 4, 2007


When I spoke to Greg Rickels, bishop of Olympia,
four weeks ago, I asked him if I could use the
10 Rules for Respect in communication he'd
introduced at his parish as rector - and he
readily gave his permission.

Donald Nicholl, the English Catholic layman who
taught me so much at UCSC, loved to tell the
story of Gandhi and the little girl. Her mother
brought her to the great man complaining of her
addiction to sweet foods, and asking Gandhi to do
something about it. Gandhi told her to come back
in two weeks. When she did, he took the little
girl aside and in a few simple words told her how
to break the habit. The mother asked, why did you
not tell her this two weeks ago? Because, madam,
two weeks ago I was still addicted to sweet
foods myself!

So with some trepidation... the 10 Rules for
Respect in communication between a congregation
and its pastor:

10 Rules for Respect

1. If you have a problem with me, come to me

2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to
you (privately).

3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to
you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you.)

4. If someone consistently will not come to me,
say to them, “Let’s go to him together. I am sure
he will see us about this.” (I will do the same
for you.)

5. Be careful how you interpret me – I’d rather
do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel
pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts.
It is easy to misinterpret intentions.

6. I will be careful how I interpret you.

7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. This
especially applies to Vestry meetings. If you or
anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell
unless a) the person is going to harm
himself/herself, b) the person is going to
physically harm someone else, c) a child has been
physically or sexually abused. I expect the same
from you.

8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.

9. I do not manipulate; I will not be
manipulated; do not let others manipulate you. Do
not let others manipulate me through you. I will
not preach “at” you on Sunday mornings. I will
leave conviction to the Holy Spirit. (She does it
better anyway!)

10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb
questions are those that don’t get asked. We are
a family here and we care about each other, so if
you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak
up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting
something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I

Adapted from Bishop Gregory Rickel’s biography
and answers to search committee essay questions
Diocese of Olympia

Donald Nicholl, Holiness (Seabury, 1981)

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