... oh no you won't!
This post is by way of 'homage' to the 'fresh meat' who are currently in the middle of their Leaver's Weeks etc.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the life of a priest, the process by which we arrive at our pious perfection is ordinarily by way of a theological college, be that as a full-timer or as a part-timer. That time must come to an end, and such a time is greeted in one of two ways: gladly or else with a sense of panic and mourning. Normal folks leave college glad of the experience, but champing at the bit to get back into real life, earn some shekels, eat in some privacy. Others feel 'called' to theological college, and for them, being dragged kicking and screaming from the bosom of the establishment is a grievous affair. The judges are still out as to whether the latter breed of ordinand is likely to flourish in the real world - I have my views and they are backed now by examples, but for now 'no names no pack-drill'.
So, like teenagers at the end of GCSEs, there is the frentic 'you will keep in touch won't you?', and 'here is my Ember Card with my new address on it; come and visit soon, please'. This won't happen, and an ordinand is likely to retain maybe two close friends from college days. The rest will become memories, and that is quite normal.
So, some Cloakey advice for the Fresh Meat of 2010 (that was my nickname at College where I was, generally, the resident pain in the arse):
1. You get out what you put in (reaping and sowing?) - this is the maxim by which I minister in Aylesbury. It worked for me in my former working life and it is the case now. If you pour love and enthusiasm into your work, you will enjoy good times. If you clock-watch, adopt self-pity for prayer time lost, for example - you will not do at all well in a ministry that demands love and joy from you every stinking day of the week!
2. Always a Trainee - in your Curacy, you never ever stop being a trainee. I have seen and heard of curacies where the little dollink has spent his/her first week or two learning, and then the successive weeks dictating terms like an old pro. No mate, with humility you shall learn. With humilty you shall learn from not only your Training Incumbent but also from little Mrs Miggins who never speaks to you. The minute that you think you are better than the Incumbent is the minute you have resolutely failed.
3. It is a job of work - and needs to be treated as such. We have all had these misty dreams of a ministry spent in dusty books, on our knees praying, gawping at Icons - but that is what we do when we go on holiday. Where you are going is a coal-face, and you need to dirty your hands and take up the tools and work. Any notion that the job should 'feed you' is folly. We ministers do the feeding, we have to look elsewhere to feed ourselves.
4. Have fun and do not take yourself too seriously - a healthy sense of irony and a healthy sense that you are 'but a worm' is no bad way of setting out on a day's encounter at the coal face. An expert in liturgy a fit priest doesn't necessarily make. Laugh about life, be thankful and never never never never never stop being grateful that God called you to do this work. Oh, the amount of priests I know who feel that they are there by right ....
5. Family first - in the great scheme of things, the Good Lord demands that you raise your kids and attend to the vocation of your marriage before all else. Do not render your kids orphans or your spouse partnerless. Many of the 'Fresh Meat' folk have young families - and yes, they will impinge on that Messiah Complex time. They will keep your feet on the ground, and they need to. Life in ministry has good days and bad for time at home - so be greedy for family time, not consider it a flexible padding until the next opportunity to go out and be jolly popular again!
6. Under promise and Over deliver - and never over promise and under-deliver. One may seem pants, but the other certainly is pants.
7. Say NO - it won't kill you, really. Excessive Yesses might, however.
8. Expect the Unexpected - if being Selected for training weren't mad enough, you will discover that life is a wide panoply of things that will bite you on the butt. They are good and bad in equal measure. Having a heart to expect the unexpected will serve you well. Try and avoid becoming set in your ways until at least the third month!
9. The Years - I was once told that they love you in the first year, hate you in the second and put up with you in the third. Remove the peaks and troughs and I can confirm this as fact. The heady diaconal days soon give way to 'business as usual' - expect it and don't be discouraged by it.
10. What are you? This is where I might be controversial, but it is my Blog, so there. Are you going to be ordained as a modified Licensed Lay Reader or are you going to be ordained a Priest. Are you going to be an ordained 'minister'? All Christians are ministers. What I am saying is recognise the distinctiveness of your Charism. Ordination is not a promotion for a comeptant youth worker. It is not the front door to Preaching Central - ordination for you is to the priesthood. That is the job you have accepted from God and that is the job you must do. Administer the Sacraments.
Well, there you go - a little list for a Friday. Those who know me well will know how many of those I have lapsed in already.
To the Leavers - may God go with you to your new ministries, to your new homes and to your new lives. May He grant you strength to walk forward in your work and to remind you daily in whose strength you work. May your families be protected from your ministry and become an asset to it. Blessing to you all, you lucky lucky lucky lucky .... people.