Working with our sisters and brothers in Bali

When you’re going to Bali, it’s rather cool to be able to say you are going “on work!” Especially when talking to other West Australians going there for the usual reasons.

Rev Marie Wilson and I were able to say this as we fronted up to the Jetstar flight out of Perth on a recent Saturday night. We had a job to do! Our task was to introduce some of the senior clergy of the Balinese Protestant Church (Gereja Kiristen Protestan di Bali – GKPB) to the discipline of professional supervision.

We soon discovered they knew a lot about ‘supervision’, but that what they knew was more about top-down management than professional supervision, and anyone who has experienced that kind of top-down management tends to steer clear of supervision. It’s a common misunderstanding, even among our enlightened Uniting Church ministers.

GKPB is our partner church in Bali, and like all the Indonesian churches is a large and thriving one, with very little by way of a supervisory support structure for its clergy. Marie has had a long association with this church, serving the Legian Congregation in Kuta over many years.

At the Bali airport we were met by the smiling General Secretary, Augustinius, and whisked away to the outer suburbs of the city and the new Hotel, Dhyana Pura (City), where we were very comfortably accommodated for the period of the supervision Intensive.

Our initial anxieties about how well we could communicate with the Balinese clergy were soon laid to rest when we met our translators Wid and Chris, and our administrative assistant, Priskilia, and began to work through some of the planning issues for the weeklong intensive.

Sixteen senior and retired clergy had signed up for the training, and we were surprised on the first day to find that only seven were present. Communication had not worked as well as we had hoped and some thought they could drop in and drop out of the training on a daily basis. Marie and I needed to change tack!

Soon another issue  emerged. In Indonesian, the word ‘supervisi’ had a decidedly hierarchical meaning. As we talked with our participants, it became clear to them that we needed a better word to describe the peer-to-peer supervision we were describing. They came up with the word ‘pendampingan’ Working with our sisters and brothers in Bali Geof Lilburne When you’re going to Bali, it’s rather cool to be able to say you are going “on work!” Especially when talking to other West Australians going there for the usual reasons. to  describe the kind of ‘walking alongside’ supervision which the Pohly Centre advocates.

On Sunday, we visited the Legian Church and were taken through a very upbeat service of worship with loud music and plenty of youthful participation. Alas, there was not time for a swim at the nearby beach as we were whisked back to our hotel room for afternoon siesta.

During the week, we had the opportunity to meet up with Dr Debora Murthy, Regional Co ordinator Southeast Asia Programs with UnitingWorld, and to share a delicious seafood dinner with her.

In the course of our five day training we ended up talking about many things, a code of ethics for the Balinese Church, the ethics of ‘mixed’ marriages, leadership and the role of senior and retired ministers. The exchanges were very frank and open, and Marie and I learned a great deal about our own cultural assumptions and theological preferences.

In all, about 17 clergy participated and we were strongly encouraged to return next year to offer more training. There is a great deal of affection and respect in our relationship with this church and it is our hope that the training relationship we have initiated can be developed over the next several years.

It’s great to work in Bali!

Geof Lilburne

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