A few weeks ago the Bishop phoned me. This is a bit like the police stopping you. You immediately think ‘Oh no, what have I done?’ You don’t immediately think that? Only me then. Hmm. After the niceties the Bishop asked if I’d consider being Interim Pastor to two local churches: Grangemouth and Bo’ness. Their priest was about to retire after being there for 13 years and the linked charges are now seeking a new Rector.
What is the role of the Interim Pastor? Obviously as I have a church of my own I can’t go and take their services but my role is to find someone who can. This is one of my least favourite jobs for my own church, let alone another two! That was the bit I really had to pray about before I said yes. One of the reasons it is a difficult task is because we live in West Lothian and I think churches in Edinburgh reckon we are practically on the other side of Scotland. Actually it takes about 20 minutes on a Sunday to drive her and G & B are even closer to Edinburgh. It used to take that for me to cross Edinburgh, if not longer, with the tram works. I’m aiming to be with G & B once a month but of course that will mean I have to get cover for my own little flock on those days.
The next part of the job is to ‘journey’ with the congregation and help them do their parish profile and priest spec. The Bishop has been out already to let them know how that works. Then there is the pastoral work – the baptisms, weddings and funerals. Two weeks in and I had my first funeral. Thankfully there is Denis the new Lay Reader who will be able to help with some of this, however he is doing a part-time degree at Glasgow Uni and also still works so that has to be taken into account.
There are Vestry meetings, and AGMs, and local clergy groups and Area Councils. Think of your own diary and treble it! Ok, so I am not going to be going to them all but I do need to read the minutes and check in with those who do go. It has certainly filled up my diary. And I reckon as a diet it will work pretty well. Who has time to eat?!
From a personal point of view it is interesting to worship in different spaces. Each church affects the liturgy and how it plays out. Where do you stand for the Liturgy of the Word? Where did a 6′ man stand and does that work for a 5’3″ woman? There are no servers in either church so getting used to finding all the gubbins and fitting behind tight spaces is becoming an issue. And no, I shall not use the pulpit in Bo’ness again. Not unless I want 30 people to amuse themselves watching me trying to fit in that small gap. I’ve also learned that both churches have much better heating than we do, so no jumpers necessary unless you want to melt into a greasy blob by the end of it. Microphones are microphones? Oh no! Microphones who have 3 settings (Off/Mute/On) are quite different from ones with 2 settings (Mute/On) so there has been a bit of ‘Can you hear me?’ or ‘Am I on?’ which never adds to liturgy I fear.
The hymn book is different too and I am quite convinced that this plays a huge part in how the congregation worships. Both G & B are Mission Praise congregations so that is a learning curve for me. (And not one I would have chosen!!) Both congregations are lovely and are keen to be flexible in how the liturgy plays out. “Do what you want,” they’ve said. And with different priests there each week I suspect that is what they’ll get. For we all get set in our own little ways. I’m sure by the time they do find a new priest they will be glad to settle down with some familiarity each week.
However, you can pick up some tips for things which are used in other churches to good effect. Like fundraising. Who thought that a pop-up charity shop could bring in over £1600? And I love getting to meet another bunch of lovely Piskies. Huge joy. This week my intercessions had to include the closure of the huge employer Ileos at Grangemouth. There must be hardly a soul who lives in Grangemouth who would not be affected in some way by this. Thankfully by the next day the Unions had given in and the jobs are saved. It is hard to know the rights and wrongs of this whole situation, but what we can know is that the future of the town is a little bit better.
So if there aren’t so many blogs in future, or check-ins with Facebook and Twitter, you’ll know why.