We 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.