But it wasn't the church's equality and diversity policies that made me think. Rather, it was my own experience of church life. The other week a simplified Myers-Briggs personality-type questionnaire was doing the rounds on Facebook. Never one to resist a challenge, I took the test. Yet again, I came out stubbornly as an introvert - INFJ for those who know what that means. Since I first did it 30 years ago, I have always emerged as irredeemably introverted. Despite my formative Christian experience in vibrant evangelical churches, despite all these years of leadership in parish and cathedral, despite all the exposure to crowds of people many of them strangers, despite loving this privileged kind of ministry that takes a priest into so many different communities, despite all that I am still an introvert.
Time was when I used to wish I were different. But a wise spiritual director helped me to accept who I am and celebrate the gifts I bring. I now understand how we introverts learn over a lifetime to behave in extraverted ways: getting up to speak in public, working a room full of people we don't know, being genuinely interested in others, asking for money to support the church, knocking on unknown doors to offer pastoral care or support - it's all part of the job as every priest knows. And introverts are often very good at it, because of their nurturing both of the inner spiritual life and the great importance they attach to authenticity in personal relationships. Good 'performance skills' are required in all leaders, and introverts are as accomplished in this as extraverts. It's true that extraverts find some aspects of leadership more congenial than introverts, and less costly personally. But some of the finest leaders in all sectors are introverts, people who don't make a lot of noise or draw attention to themselves, but are quietly effective in what they do.
I've been reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking [Viking 2012]. She has a lot to say about leadership in a world where extraversion goes with popularity and that loves the charismatic and the celebrity. She quotes two respected gurus among a vast literature on what makes a good leader. One says that what effective leaders have in common is 'little or no charisma, & little use either for that term or what it signifies'. Another affirms that 'many best-performing companies are run by Level 5 Leaders with no flash or charisma but only with extreme humility & intense professional will'. I find this encouraging.
I was especially interested in what she had to say about the prevailing evangelical culture in North America. She attended a large act of worship in one of the US's most flourishing mega-churches. First there's the warm-up. '"Good morning everybody" beams S---, then urges us to greet those seated near us. Most people oblige with wide smiles and glad hands.' Then comes the sermon. '"If you're a business leader, you need to read the Book of Jeremiah over and over because he was a genius CEO."' Straight out of the Harvard Business School then (another institution that comes in for interesting scrutiny). The author says she can't help thinking of an 'Unleash the Power Within' seminar she attended, with all those electric smiles and shining eyes.
She acknowledges that it is all well-meant and well-done. This is a church with a great record of outreach and social care. 'But at the same time I can see how hard it must be, inside this world...for [this church's] introverts to feel good about themselves.' The (introverted) conservative evangelical pastor who took her into the service said afterwards 'with gentle exasperation': 'greeting people, the lengthy sermon, the singing - there was no emphasis on quiet, liturgy, ritual, things that give you space for contemplation... Sometimes I feel like I'm going through the motions. The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of [the church] culture doesn't feel natural. Not that introverts can't be eager and enthusiastic, but we're not as overtly expressive as extroverts. At a place like [this] you can start questioning your own experience of God. Is it really as strong as that of other people who look the part of the devout believer?'
I can hear extraverts cry: 'choral evensong is all very well for you introverts. What about us?' That's an important question. I guess that the task of liturgy is to embrace all sorts and conditions so that everyone is included and no one feels alienated as somehow a second class worshipper. That was Thomas Cranmer's great project - to create a liturgy that was genuinely common prayer, words and rituals that would not divide people but unite them in one koinonia, a fellowship of faith and love. This postmodern world has made the ideal much harder to attain than in his day. For now there are supposedly no grand narratives any more, only bits and pieces, all equally valid, with which we play at bricolage and piece texts and actions together in whatever way we choose. Extraverts and introverts are bound to do that in very different ways.
But I would like to think that together we can create liturgy that is generous enough to have space for everyone. I doubt if an introvert would introduce a liturgical silence by saying 'Come on all you extraverts, just shut up and be quiet for once!' What matters is how we are natural and easy about acknowledging in public the extraverted and introverted sides that make up each of us. That calls for traditional Anglican grace and sensitivity that I need to learn and re-learn as much as the worship leader with whom I began.