Thinking Forward and Backward

Maylanne Maybee reflects on her first weeks as Principal of CCS:

It’s now two weeks since I’ve assumed the role of Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies.  My appointment to CCS was announced at the end of April, so I’ve had three months to think about and plan for it. 

I spent those three months finishing up current projects, saying goodbye to friends and family almost every day, and preparing to come to Winnipeg – deciding where to live, sorting my stuff, getting rid of things, packing for the movers, taking time off to go canoeing with friends.  Not a bad breakdown of time.  I was feted with joke gifts and songs from Toronto friends about what to anticipate in Winnipeg:  a winter scarf, warm woolen socks, an extension cord for a car heater, a mosquito helmet, mosquito repellant, a miniature sand bag, plus small gifts, tourist brochures, and maps.  In spite of the levity, these tokens helped me to anticipate the change of cities in concrete terms. 

Thinking forward as well as backward meant spending time in July with Charlotte Caron, the Acting Principal, to learn what pieces of work I had to pick up.

Charlotte was exemplary in the way she prepared handover information – broken down month by month in a binder.  This helped me to think forward in a chronological way, while providing a window for learning about a host of complex and multi-faceted responsibilities.  Charlotte’s calm and methodical manner helped give me a sense that the job was do-able in spite of its complexities, especially if I can learn to abandon my perfectionist tendencies!  Charlotte was very good at setting boundaries to her time and being realistic and good humoured about what she could and couldn’t do.  May I learn to do the same.

I also did some preparatory reading – a slightly dated but still relevant tome on Non-Profit Management; a book called The Next Level by Scott Eblin, about making the shift from being a functional manager to being in an executive role;  another called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, which is self-explanatory; and Gwyn Griffith’s history of the Centre for Christian Studies, Weaving a Changing Tapestry

But no amount of one-to-one conversations or reading will make up for the school of hard knocks as I go about my tasks day by day. The CCS staff have been wonderfully welcoming.  Our weekly meetings, beginning with prayer and check-in, are proving to be an excellent forum for figuring things out, as have the individual interviews I’ve had with each staff person. 

I’ve asked them to be patient as I learn each step and make mistakes on the way.  And I only ask the same of students and prospective students. 

In the final sermon I gave on July 24 at my parish church in Toronto, St. Mary Magdalene, I said that I felt like Sarah who laughed out loud when she learned she was with child in her old age.   I too feel joyfully astonished that I have this new opportunity to learn and apply my experience and skills in a new way when others of higher station or greater means might be planning for their retirement.  I feel young and eager to learn and excited by untested possibilities.  And I look forward to sharing with you in the weeks and months to come how things actually unfold!