That was the week that was

It has been a funny old week. It didn’t work out at all how I had planned. You know how it is – you plan a little post-Easter visiting because the visiting team are mostly not visiting these days. And a little catching up and planning dates for the diary, and some work with the little people in preparation for big things with the bishop.  Of course, a broken boiler (which resulted in 3 days stuck in waiting) and a new pussy cat put paid to all of that. Throw in a sick papa on the day off and you will see why nothing that was planned actually happened. There’s pro-active and there’s reactive and this week was definitely the latter.

My plan is to forget it actually happened and start all over again tomorrow.

Pastoral encounter

Some days in ministry it is just one pastoral encounter after another.  One meeting finishes and the phone rings and another conversation begins. That one ends and the door bell rings and another arrives to chat. You nip out to the shops and meet a parishioner there too who wants to talk and before you know it it is tea-time and you haven’t done a stroke of work.

Well, of course you have. It was all work. But why does it feel as if I have just blethered the day away?  And when am I going to get my Holy Week prep done?

Self Awareness

Look – I’ve been a priest a long time, and I know a couple of things. And the one thing I know for sure is that if I don’t accept my own, well, defects – if I’m not willing to see them clearly as part of me – I sure as hell can’t accept anyone else’s.

Michelle Blake in Earth Has No Sorrow

Death and books and rows and laughter

It has been a strange week. Sometimes in ministry we get these weeks where your emotions are up and down like a roller coaster. This has been such a week of extremes. In fact it has been an Advent week which just goes to reinforce what I preached about last Sunday – keep Advent in Advent. There will be time enough to celebrate Christmass.  (Although somebody fell out with me over that one again.)

Here’s a taster of this past week as I look back …

  • gathering stories for Helen’s funeral and looking back at an incredible woman
  • lunch with old friends and lots of jokes (none suitable for sermons!)
  • photocopying and folding
  • seeing the sadness of Borders Books as shelves were in chaos but popping in 3 times all the same, a guilty pleasure
  • another funeral and hearing more stories about love and a beauty queen
  • more Christmass cards bringing messages and laughter (thank you Grahame!)
  • designing service sheets and photocopying and folding and stapling
  • searching and searching for unbleached candles and finding the last two just in time
  • listening to stories and forgetting the Bishop’s Christmas party
  • prayers in the morning with just the coffin for company
  • snatched phone calls offering support and love
  • photocopying and praying
  • escaping for two hours to watch The Princess Bride and finding it was just what I needed (thank you Mother K!)
  • feeling useless
  • having to be the baddy again and knowing that things still won’t change
  • facing the rawness of grief
  • inhaling the delicious smell of new books
  • reaching my day off and coming to the conclusion that I will actually take it
  • just wait till I get this photocopying done…

Ministry meanderings

Bishop Alan (not one of ours but one of theirs) has been pondering the things he’s learned in ministry. They make for good reading. I especially like number 2.

Fr Kelvin has been saying what he wants in a new bishop. You can add to the list here.  Of course we are very happy with the one we’ve got. (If you’re reading this Bishop B, good morning!)

A week of reflecting

It has been a busy old week. One of those weeks when you work from 8am to 8pm or later most days but achieve lots.

On Wednesday I had my Ministerial Review with the Bishop and it was really good. The preparation took a couple of days last week spending time reflecting on my ministry, my strengths and weaknesses, the time spent with family, friends and the job I love, where I am now and where I want to be, and more. +Brian was good at digging into the bits that needed more investigation and incredibly supportive. I came away feeling very affirmed which was good. And with some thoughts to ponder on personal development.

On Friday I spent the day on the Crisis in Ministry course looking at working with the elderly. We had to bring along an ‘issue’ to share and I had a list. Mostly it is to do with people who are not managing in their own homes and it is clear to me that they need help but frustration that as we are not ‘family’ we don’t have the right to phone GPs, Social Workers, Community Health teams and discuss how they can be helped. We had a social worker in attendance who helped us with answers to the problems. Inevitably the subject of my dad came up and I’ve come away feeling angry at the poor care he gets and guilt that I don’t see him as often as I should. Lots to ponder.

Today it is our Overseas Sale and lots of underlying politics which I fear may mar the day. Money raised will go to Links and Mary’s Meals. It is also our Cafe so you will be fed well if you pop in to St Mark’s today. Money from the Cafe will go to our Organ Appeal.

Mission and Ministry in Edinburgh

Last night our Mission and Ministry committee met to discuss Ministry Review as part of our 2008/9 goals.  A few issues arose for discussion and, as ever, I’d appreciate your input folks…

The first question we discussed was:
What do we in Edinburgh Diocese mean by ‘ministry’ and how does it relate to ‘discipleship’?

I realise that we in Edinburgh may do ministry differently from those elsewhere. Ministry has first and foremost to be contextual. And ministry in the city of Edinburgh will be different from ministry in the Borders, and West and East Lothian (all part of our diocese). For you it will be completely different but I’d be interested in your opinion.

There has been much debate in our wee church about ministry of late. Local Collaborative Ministry (with capitals) has caused some clergy to feel uncertain about their future role. This has been covered on blogs in the past.  Our committee recently studied The Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church, C of E FOAG Report 2007. One of the questions it raised was the use of the words ‘ministry’ and ‘discipleship’. There seems to have been a shift in recent years towards the use of ‘ministry’ to cover all sorts of jobs that people do in the church: from welcoming people at the door to playing the organ to visiting the sick to arranging the flowers. But what the report was suggesting was that these jobs are really ‘discipleship’ – things that we all should be doing as Christians. Each of us will have strengths in certain areas of discipleship and those should be affirmed and nurtured and undertaken to the best of our ability.

Ministry, or rather ‘ordained ministry’ also contains the role of leadership, as well as enabling and nurturing. But never in four years of university or three years of Theological College were we taught those skills. Now it may be that in our selection process those skills were discerned but having leadership skills in the secular world can be very different from the skills needed for working within a congregational setting. We concluded that continuing training in this area was long overdue.

How can we support both clergy and lay ministry better?

ES, who wrote the paper we were discussing, says ‘…the term ‘ministry’ is notoriously greedy and almost impossible to define. A definition that is too limited may exclude and offend laity; a definition that is too broad may leave clergy feeling devalued and demoralised. At General Synod this year, one priest spoke of his hurt at hearing stipendiary clergy being described at a Provincial Conference as a burden on the Church’s finances. Other clergy refused to vote on occasions at this Synod apparantly in protest at the power of LCM in the SEC.’

I would agree with this statement and it is a very difficult subject to discuss. Clergy morale is low for those and other reasons. And a common complaint, not just in our diocese, is the lack of continuing personal development and  lifelong learning. It seems to many of us that a huge amount of resources have been recently put into the training and development of LCM but little for stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy. There was a recent article in Inspires about the training offered to lay people to be Continuing Congregational Development Companions. These companions are invited into congregations to lead congregational development days and help the congregation discern where changes might be made. They are trained to tackle issues which a church as a community might face and to discern gifts in the laity. My question is this: why is this training not just given to clergy? I have never been offered further training in this area and would be really interested in developing those skills.

Is our training in those of authorised ministries in IME, CMD 1-3 and CMD 4+ adequate and would its improvement increase clergy morale and vocations?

Well you may have already gathered that my answer to the first part of that question is ‘No’ and to the second part ‘Yes’! As long as continuing resources is put into lay training and programmes clergy are going to be more and more demoralised and dissatisfied. Our Diocese has an excellent programme called Adventures in Faith which offers training courses and one day events for lay people (and clergy) to attend. And I have. But these are not specifically aimed at clergy development and that area is like a barren land. To be fair, our diocese did indeed put on a couple of one-day events for clergy last year but the take-up was so poor that one had to be cancelled and the other cut short because only two of us turned up. Perhaps the organisers need to look at the topics being offered and ask what is really wanted or needed?

I know of one diocese that has monthly clergy development which is mandatory and has my full support. But at the present time each diocese is responsible for its own training and there are huge differences in the approach.

In this week’s Church Times there was an excellent article by Rev Brian Cranwell entitled ‘Head off stress by getting feedback’. He suggests that clergy need better appraisals and training to prevent problems leading to stress, breakdown and even some leaving the church altogether. In my past job I had annual reviews and had to undertake regular training as part of my contract. Although the SEC has a Clergy Appraisal Scheme, I think, it is voluntary and as ever those who perhaps need it most don’t take it up. And it is such a well-kept secret that many don’t even know of its existence. And while peer appraisal can indeed be valuable there is something to be said for regular appraisals with a senior clergyperson in one’s own diocese. For example, nobody has ever spoken to my Vestry or congregation to see how I am functioning. I might be the worst preacher in the world and who is to know?

So there we have it folks… over to you for comments.

Who stole the time?

Don’t ask me why, but I have been soooo busy this past fortnight and barely a moment to blog – hence the silence. This week I had a meeting on every night, an all day conference today, prep for a baptism tomorrow, prep for a prayer group that I’m leading, prep for The Alternative Service, plus all the usual stuff that goes on around here. I’ve not had a minute to myself and it just occurred to me that I haven’t laughed a lot lately. I seem to have lost my sense of humour.

Has anyone seen it?

That was the week that was

It got even busier last week and even more emotional.

Prayers for Lou’s family and friends after a glorious funeral and purvey. She would have loved it!

Prayers for Helen as she prepares to go into hospital. A wonderful warm woman, much loved by all who know her. Let us pray that all shall be well.

The Children’s Mission day on Fair Trade was a resounding success. Not as many kids as we would have hoped for but it all worked out well in the end. The church looks resplendent with palm trees, spices, bananas and chocolate. We even got some folk to dress up on Sunday in costumes from around the world. And you’ll never believe it but I taught and sang the Peruvian Gloria. Yes, I sang!  On my own! And nobody left. A miracle!

Then last night was our Healing Service for St Lukestide. Not a great turn out but the Holy Spirit was there for sure. An emotional evening.

Off now to the Borders for a couple of days R&R.