That’s how it feels. Two months and nine days after licensing. Time enough for me to be used to where I am, and to know where to buy milk, no time at all as far as establishing of routine is concerned.
The first thing that happened when I left my old job was a trip to Wicks (other hardware stores are available) for paint and the associated accoutrements. I spent my time before we moved in either putting paint on walls or possessions in skips or recycle or free cycle as appropriate. I spent my time after we moved in taking an astonishingly large number of remaining possessions out of boxes and into cupboards, drawers etc etc. I measured progress as trips to Wicks diminished, and trips to Homebase increased, and then as days wore on, Homebase receded and The Range became the port of call. (Again, other stores are available). My energy went into making sure that family were as physically settled as possible. Licensing came (very splendidly happy it was too) and went (leaving a great and encouraging memory. The fact the Bishop thinks I may be a “challenge” to the parish has stayed with me!).
The Church of England is a weird and joyous thing. It has a system of “interregna” which means that usually the old vicar leaves well before the next arrives. This is useful, in that it gives people time to mourn the loss of their priest, and then to look forward to the next. It is also a right pain, especially when you used to be a curate, and are now Incumbent. Every other job move I’ve made has had systems and processes which were already operating when I arrived. Of course, some of them got changed as I settled down and sorted out things to suit my way of working. Some of them got changed because no-one had noticed that they just didn’t work any more (there is nothing like actually following an official procedure to the letter for discovering what’s wrong with it). But in the CofE, everybody has their own ways, everything is done slightly differently. During the interregnum (which is just the period of time when the parish is “between vicars”) church wardens and other ‘willing volunteers’ pick up the tasks which have to be done. And here, let me say, a very fine job they have done too. Handing over a task from one person to another to another isn’t easy, and I am well briefed.
The parish knows when it is ‘between vicars’. Some things get put off until the new one shows up, especially when it is known that a new one is arriving soon. Baptisms, wedding bookings are a couple of the obvious candidates for delay. So when the phone rang for something like that, I reached confidently for my usual forms and information packs, only to realise they are of course all about the wrong place. Hiring the Village Hall in order to secure parking for a wedding is completely irrelevant – but bell ringers and their costs are worth knowing about. (£15 per rope, six bells, £90. Bargain. And they’re friendly!) So much of my first few weeks was spent recreating and rebranding pieces of paper, trying at the same time to cope with a small flurry of enquiries.
It’s only now, as the dust begins to settle, that I can look up and start to do the work and count the cost of moving from the emotional perspective. I have not been back to my curacy churches, and won’t for some months yet – I have to get used to a different place, and they have to get used to a different ministry team (and thank God they are in safe hands). There is work of discernment to do – who are the friends I take with me and keep, who are those with whom I walked and shared deeply for a short season? You, dear reader, may well have moved with me, and I am delighted by that. In fact, the joy of social media is that keeping in touch is so much easier, whether it’s though Facebook, twitter, or by reading a blog. But friends are more than those who live in my phone. There are the people I love, to whom I know I can send a message or text, people I know I can ring, people whom I look forward to hugging. They are my go-to friends. You Know Who You Are. You may find I’m around a bit more now that the dust is starting to settle, and my time and space location devices are starting to recalibrate.
Moving is hard work physically. But the mental work is tough too….even when you know you have arrived in the best parish in the world!
For those who are wondering,
the paper aeroplane is constructed from Easter 3’s pew sheet.
It didn’t fly very well, and it will be deconstructed shortly.