We've talked about the Swanvale Halt Branch Mothers' Union before. Things have not been easy for the Branch, with several longstanding members dying or moving away, and a hard time had finding anyone to do the work the Branch needs doing. A couple of weeks ago the Chair, who had decided to retire, asked me 'what I was going to do about the MU'. 'We could close the branch, or amalgamate it with another', she went on. After a bit of thought I wrote to her setting out all the options, and my impression that, while the purpose of the MU was as a campaigning organisation, locally there was a tendency to become a fellowship group for its members, and Swanvale Halt Branch had to decide what it wanted to be.
This was intended as part of a conversation with the branch chair, but she promptly read it to the Committee. I wouldn't have expressed myself quite so unguardedly had it been going more widely. While I was on leave I had no fewer than three outraged communications as a result ('There was no bedside manner!' commented one, and there shouldn't have been a need for one), so when I got back suggested gingerly that we call a meeting of the Committee to talk about it.
It was all rather good-natured in the event. One typically very mild lady smiled that she'd wanted to 'come round and give you a slap', but as I was determined not to be self-justificatory or defensive and they wanted to get some things actually sorted out about the future, the hour went very positively. Some administrative and promotional changes will take place, I'll help with the latter, and we'll see what happens.
Now, this should not have happened and is a cautionary tale about what amounts to a private conversation being opened more widely. I could have made a fuss about that, but didn't as there was no point, and the MU committee could have been far more stubbornly upset, but didn't see any point in doing that either. In a great number of parishes this could have been something that would poison relationships for years to come but, as I've had cause to be grateful for in the past, Swanvale Halt is a parish composed of strikingly sensible people.