Winter to spring

IMG_3440We moved in February and it still felt like winter. But now we’ve had our first taste of summer (even though in traditional May style it feels cold, wet and miserable at the moment). It feels like a good moment to stop and take stock, review the things I have learnt about Rectoring.

1. Being the only clergy in the village is tough. Like it or not, there is a divide between those who wear collars and those who don’t, mainly because of the different experiences. Most people only see glimpses of my day, they don’t see the totality – they may see the funeral, but not the fact that it’s followed by a baptism visit or a meeting. Fellow clergy understand the juxtapositions and the toll they can take better than most, and I miss having colleagues around to mull stuff with. I get plenty of contact with clergy, but not the casual day to day time that I so valued with my Training Incumbent. It also means that trying to organise a summer holiday is hard work – to get a fortnight really means covering three Sundays (unless I want to write a sermon as I travel back home). This puts more work on other people – give and take which was fine in a team with a rota, but is less clear cut here.

2. There’s something I have changed and I am glad. Working out what I really couldn’t cope with, and changing it, was a good strategy. In my case it was the old service booklets. Having been steeped in seasonal liturgy with Common Worship, to have the same thing every week but always having to decide which Eucharistic Prayer I fancied using was difficult. I’ve now got the beginnings of a set of service books which will eventually cover the whole liturgical year. Changing meant I don’t have to mentally “cope” every single service with something I don’t like.

3.  There’s some things I haven’t changed and I am glad. It doesn’t matter too much if I don’t like certain things – as long as I can cope with the dislike/discomfort.  There is more than enough to do without adding to the list.

4. I need stronger boundaries about taking time. I am good at protecting my day off, but very bad at protecting spare time within a working day. When I think back, no-one minded if I went for a coffee and stare into space in my old job, taking an hour for lunch wasn’t an issue, if I started before breakfast that meant I would finish a bit early. Here, there is always something awaiting my attention, usually something quite urgent (not necessarily important), and it makes stopping hard. However, if I try to keep going at my current pace, I will be ill. So, stopping is called for. (I have time off on the horizon…)

5. (Far too low on this list) I work with wonderful people. They are warm, caring and affirming. And I suspect if I was better at asking for help, they would be glad to give a hand. So there is part of being new which will get easier as I learn who is good at what, who loves to help, who doesn’t have time but has wisdom…..

6. I am in my 40’s, but as Rector, I have been here since the 12th Century, and will be here for a long time to come – or at least, my role will. What I, Rev’d Claire, do (or don’t do) will fade over time, so being a little less of a control freak and a little more relaxed won’t hurt in the long term. That’s not to underplay the fact there is a job to do here. Normal Sunday attendance of 25-30 out of a population of 4500 is below national average. And yes, I know that numbers don’t matter. But sharing the Gospel in a warm, welcoming, life affirming way matters very much indeed – and always will.

7. Everyone is related to everyone. I already knew that before I arrived (this is a rural place, I know the score). But learning how they are related, what interests they hold in common, and where the points of division are….that takes time and care. Walking is a good way to learn, because I get to see people in their natural habitat!

8. There will always be an excuse…..the next funeral, the next meeting, the next this, that or the other. Sometimes, using that excuse is fine. Sometimes it isn’t. Learning when to do which makes all the difference.

9. My lovely wonderful support systems need care and nurture if they are to continue to support me. Just a thought.

10. God.  God gets a look in now and then. Just as well. Given every bit of this is to the glory of God.

2 responses to “Winter to spring

  1. I think that there is wisdom in your reflection. Because, after all, you might be a singleton in your place, but there is a sharing ministry to be had, your talent spotting skills will need to be honed to a fine art.

    As an example, after a conversation with my Vicar this morning, she mentioned the word logistics, which features in my CV. In connection with a churches together service being held in the grounds of our parish this weekend. Her actual words were “you’re good at Logistics’ how would to…….. hence my role coordinating the setup of tables, chairs, umbrellas etc and a music area in the grounds for 1030 am on Sunday morning. She also mentioned ‘you’re used to being in charge of things”……. (Ex Army Officer) so you’ll have no problem getting stuff done – but I’ll be around to back you up where needed.

    I suspect that a lot of things get done on this basis as it isn’t the first time we’ve had this sort of conversation. I’ll also be involved in the Ecumenical service with intercessions and also as part of the service giving witness on my personal journey of faith. Something I’m always happy to share and it seems that has also been noted and acted on.

    I’m sure that in your Village there are others who might well be encouraged in a similar fashion, but I appreciate that it takes time to get to know people. I’ve known Jane my Vicar for about 2.5 years since I started going to mid-week communion there, and than the offer that she made for me to continue the exploration of a vocation here. She is also a first-time incumbent albeit now having been in place for about three years. This September she gains a Curate and an Ordinand on Placement for 6 months. We also have a retired Priest, Barry, who lives in the parish and is associated with it formally via the diocesan system, which means that Jane always has his wisdom close to hand. I’m also aware that all of the Pastors in the five churches in our urban villages meet monthly for prayer and lunch to build and to strengthen relationships, which than leads to the sort of joint service we shared on Good Friday and now, next Sunday. Building relationships takes time, care and discretion. While were urban and more transient that a rural parish, a village atmosphere persists because many old families still live close together and we see two or three generations of them at services. Last Sunday we had over 120 at three services. BCP, CW HC and BCP Evensong.

    Our electoral roll numbers have decreased slightly, but our average attendance has increased? I can’t analyse the reasons behind this, but I believe that a mission outreach weekend late last year in cooperation with the diocese might have something to do with it. But people in the Church have picked up on the ‘invitation’ business and have been bringing new people in sporadically, but regularly.

    I’m now on the PCC and am learning more and more all of the time, becoming involved in building the Kingdom is great and feels right – this seems to be where God has planted me and where service is both possible and welcomed. No egos here to worry about. No posturing for position or authority, just an acceptance perhaps of the term which became a government mantra “we’re all in it together’ in it’s nicest way possible.

    I pray that your ministry is fruitful and that you continue to do what seems right, guided by the holy spirit and the wisdom that you are able to draw on and the wider support network that I’m sure that you enjoy via social media and in personal relationships in the wider church and community.

  2. Have to agree with a lot of things.

    One suggestion, to get the “2 weeks” break, (and or me most of hols), I start on a Monday and then finishing on a Sunday, and back to work the Monday after. Means I preach the Sunday before and then am off.

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