Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The LMS goes to the polls

All over the country LMS members are filling in a simple 'Yes-No' ballot on a new constitution. This is part of the reform of the Latin Mass Society's internal workings which I've mentioned a few times on this blog, but is largely invisible to the outside world.

The revision of the constitution was a matter of some urgency because the old constitution was ambiguous in some respects, notably on Committee elections. I put it at the top of my agenda when I became Chairman and we worked away at it - yup, it has taken three years! Part of the delay, however, is due to the promise of new regulations effecting charities which never materialised due to the change of Government. We had to wait to see if this was going to happen, and it seems it isn't.

I hope LMS members are taking the time to look at the documents sent to them (the old constitution, the new constitution, and a table of the most important changes) and voting. Apart from tidying up the loose ends of the old one the most important change is to the size of the Committee: from a total of 15 people it is being reduced to 10. It is a well-known rule that the bigger the committee, the less effective it is. In fact the Committee has already been reduced in size; until (I think) the revision of the constitution made in 1992, there were 18 people on it.

In the past the LMS Committee had two functions for which enormous size were useful: it served as a way for the Officers to keep in touch with developments around the country (since you could expect every part of the country to be represented), and it facilitated the corralling of volunteers for specific tasks. The first was particularly important when much of the LMS' work was delicate negotiations with bishops; now local Representatives can simply get on with organising and promoting local events, without needing United Nations negotiating teams to help them, regular face-to-face reporting back to Chairman and Committee is not so necessary. The development of a paid staff and teams of locally-based volunteers (especially in London) makes the second less necessary as well.

The function of the Committee today is, in fact, the obvious one: to formulate policy. We need to have fairly open-ended discussions about what we should be doing and how to do it; such discussions become harder the more people there are in the room, and organisations with enormous committees tend to have the real discussions, and make the real decisions, elsewhere.

The size of the Committee is a factor contributing to the efficiency of internal decision-making, but I wouldn't say the big Committee of today has been a big problem - it just makes sense to trim it since we have to change the Constitution anyway. It is just one part of the development of the LMS, which has seen a new office, a new website, and a new General Manager. We are now looking for a new Magazine Editor to re-launch our magazine, 'Mass of Ages'. This is a very exciting time for the Society: if you are not a member, why not join?

When I became Chairman there was a lot of talk about the 'direction' the LMS was going in. The talk was a little baffling because no one seemed to know what this direction was, despite having very strong views about it being a good or a bad thing. I've come to realise that this seeming paradox was quite natural: because people didn't know what was going on, they began to think something sinister was being cooked up behind closed doors. It's been a while since I've heard that kind of talk now: if you want to know what direction the LMS is going in, have a look at the website and you'll see all our initiatives and activities. Not only are we actually doing things, but they are all in the open; there's no need for cloak-and-dagger stuff after Summorum Pontificum. God bless the Pope!

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