I’ve been watching some episodes on DVD of the Vicar of Dibley, the hilarious BBC series from the 90s about a woman vicar who arrives in a small English village. In the episode “The Christmas Lunch Incident,” Geraldine, the vicar, ends up eating multiple Christmas Day meals because she can’t say no to any of the invitations offered. She has to eat four dinners (one of which includes a Brussels sprouts eating contest).

In an over-the-top way the story illustrates the difficulty we often have in facing the disappointment of others. Geraldine can’t bear to let anyone down, so she says yes, with some real implications for her health and comfort. Her parishioners are also very skilled at maneuvering to get what they want. For church leaders to sustain ourselves over time without wearing out or burning out, learning to say no is an essential skill. To get there, we have to deal with our own discomfort with disappointing others.

Where do you need to say no?

2 replies on “Can You Say No?

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Thanks, Rebecca. I appreciate your observation of Geraldine’s mixed success at boundary-setting, and how we’re all like that sometimes.

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  • Rebecca Maccini

    I will have to watch that episode. It is interesting that sometimes Geraldine has the worst time ‘keeping boundaries’ and at other times in the episodes, she is so creative and makes clear and principled stances. It reminds me of most of us in ministry.
    That balance of saying no and yes is a challenging one for me, for sure. It is harder for me to say ‘no’ to those parts of the church in which I am so invested in the outcome and I want to take over other people’s jobs to make sure that the outcome that I wat i assured.

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