I’ve walked 31 unnecessary miles in January. And the point is not the distance or pace, the point is the time. Because for around 20 minutes, for most days, I’ve had space to think. I’ve generally walked the same route, and because I have come to know it rather intimately (I watch where I put my feet) I have noticed the things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I’ve even got on nodding terms with the tractor driver – where we first met we raised hands with polite smiles. Now we nod, straight-faced. I have re-learned the different moods of cows, trees and ditches, of van drivers at different times of day.
I’ve said goodbye to my old parish, and am spending time in the Rectory, painting like a lunatic (Mineral Mist today, Wild Woods yesterday, Primrose tomorrow, and never mind the gloss work). I have valued my thinking time, as leaving one place has enabled me to come to terms with a place left longer ago, to think through some of the less good things as well as the joys, to connect some of my pet hang ups with those expressed by others, and to think how that affects the future. Bluntly, if I felt uncomfortable sometimes with my children in church, and others dread the thought of Sunday morning battles with their beloved offspring, what things can I do to help parents feel differently in the future? Just one thing to think about.
And already in my new parish, the conversations begin – the first questions…what do I think about…..what is my policy on ….; and the the first complaint….when am I going to get that hedge cut (it’s a fair point, it’s got pointy bits, and the pavement is narrow.)
That daily familiar walk has been a bit like getting to know a new place. It takes time to know and notice what changes daily, what changes more slowly, what is unexpected, what is (again bluntly) bleeding obvious. Janathon has been good training for my observational skills, which I am going to need more than ever in the coming months. I can do the basics of being a parish priest. But watching, noticing, responding prayerfully with care and love, that takes time. Marchathon, anyone?