I have spend the first part of the day so far (150 minutes) telephoning people and having conversations and arranging stuff and it's been sublime (thus far). I've heard happy things, sad things and generally found out so much more than I would have done had I merely engaged in the usual run of the mill email exchanges that have become the norm' in the wonderful world of ministry.
In addition to this I found myself clearing some seventy emails - most of which required a 'Thank You' or 'noted' or 'in the diary' comment to render them 'dealt with'.
When in conversation with people, especially clergy and others whose life is full of engaging with people, the day-to-day reality is that we are finding ourselves shuffling more and more virtual paper and engaging less and less with people in real 'flesh and blood' settings - but this was not always the case.
Talking to a man who was ordained around the same time I was born I heard of the days when the clergy would get on their bike and be out there visiting the people in their patch. There were few telephone calls to be handled and what needed to be done was done with the people when and where the need was (and they had a good idea where and when the needs might arise because they knew their people!). He spoke lovingly of the days when every day was a 'drop-in' and a day to drop-in on those he served and paperwork was a small part of the job and never in the way of being the Vicar the people needed. Rose-tinted glasses? Perhaps - but a more idyllic picture than my mountain of emails, texts and voicemails :-)
The problem is that we appear to be living our lives remotely. People send me an email and assume because they've sent it the job is done and that's whatever it was about is sorted. I had email problems and found that much of what I sent vanished (or worse still, turned up some weeks later - which caused chaos) and so I began to contact people on the really important stuff and it has paid dividends in terms of relationships and local knowledge - and considering I'd rather have a meeting than a message I wonder how much truer this might be for some of my friends and colleagues?
So here's a challenge for me (and you can join in if you like):
1. I'm going to try and telephone five people every day to touch base and see how they are,
2. I'm going to engage with people on a face-to-face basis wherever the need is found, not by mail, message, text or other means that stop me being relational, wherever I can.
3. I'm going to try and cut down the 100+ work emails by better communications practices, and
4. I'm going to engage with people over diary items rather than just click the mail and assume that the link will create (and pass the thing on to all my devices) the event because there's a free slot.
I've had eleven calls out and five in thus far today and it's wonderful.
Tea drunk and ten-minutes on soapbox away,