A quick splurge which might just damage your brains:
This week has been one of those where, as I sit down and drink my tea before the day outside of the Vicar's palace begins, I realise has gone before I've managed to get through Monday's work! One of those weeks where the days have vanished and I can't recall what on earth I've done. And this fits in with a conversation I have had regarding looking at a parish (or district) with regard to workload and posts; and another relating to 'how much of a vicar' a post demands.
At the heart of the discussions were two strands of thinking. The first being:
'The church doesn't merit a full minister, it should be a point five post whereas another, bigger church, warrants a whole post.'
The second was this:
'If they can't pay for a full post then they need to realise that they can only have a 'point something' post!'
Now I'm going to be contentious in that I am of the opinion that some places will never be able to pay for a whole minister and yet the area in which the congregation is placed demands such; a situation where generosity, casting bread on the water and missional thinking converge and demand a right response.
I'm going to be inflammatory and say that some places, whilst they look like full post places (and can pay for same) don't always appear to have full-time ministers; big or flourishing does not necessarily mean an engaged and active minister (or even clergy).
Now I'm not saying that some of our clergy aren't pulling their weight but what I am saying is that when it comes to House For Duty (HfD) and 0.5 posts there reality is that they never are!
When we discussed this during the week I found that whilst I can't find enough hours in the week to get everything in that I need to do. Between schools, home communions and visits, meetings, services, funerals, drop-ins, sermons and all the other stuff, life is an exciting event.
One of the clerics I was chatting to came up with the solution, 'You're doing too much!'
Now we've thus far, managed to grow from within a Pastoral Worker, Pioneer Minister and Reader plus other active members of the congregation. We find some 85% of the congregation engaged in something and we really live out an all-member ministry (and it's growing) and we are engaged in the community around us. Not a success story in terms of numbers but we are adding (slowly) to the numbers and the relationships in the community are developing and my feeling is that we're doing too little - for we live in a place with needs and problems galore.
So I asked what I should stop. The answer was that we could have a healthy church and a knackered cleric or a cleric who took time away and came before God and took care of their own spiritual and recreational life and was healthy and had a church that was 'middle of the road'; and of course 'via media' is what we Anglicans do so well.
Now I haven't got an answer to this.
Perhaps I am a workaholic but I am also keen to see people take up tasks and roles in the church so that I can do, not less, but more in different places. Whatever I do I would love to pass over but the journey from pew to pulpit is long and happens in the timing of God and the individual - I will never push people but then again I will never say 'No' to those who wish to try something. The problem is to see it from through their eyes and they from mine!
Previous ministers in one of our HfD congregations have given as much as many full-post clergy and this has led to wrong expectations from the congregations when they have gone. They ask for HfD and expect seven days a week!. Not only that but we need to realise that even a relatively small congregation takes time to care for pastorally and more time to engage with the community and develop the relationship that might bring them into membership as believers; yet cutting according to the cloth we have is also real need.
The Church used to view it's missionary effectiveness in the shape of church plants and the many 'daughter churches' out there are a testimony to the commitment of others to bring the Gospel, and the presence of God's active people, into places where He was not perhaps to be found. These need to be managed and supported and end now, thought Fresh Expressions, continued with and this will take generosity from congregations who have (prayer, vision, people and money) and from diocesan staff whose job is not just to balance the books but to support a missional and engaged church.
I'll leave you with a thought from a colleague: 'I don't want to be Jesus for my parishioners I'll leave that to Him - my job is to be right with God and after that comes the Church and the work it calls me to do. We must each look after ourselves first - even if it leave others struggling.'
Not sure I agree - and yet others in the conversation did - perhaps I'm just getting it wrong (I know there is a balance and yet I feel it tips towards those I pastor but . . . . :-( )