Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Billy No-Mates

I wrote a rather waffly post yesterday about friends and friendliness. I ambled around the houses in a fairly lack-lustre way and for that I apologise. 

I was, however, left thinking about ministerial life and friends. 

I think it is regarded as 'best practice' as a parish priest (or equivalent) to not have specific friends from among the 'flock'. While it may seem an acceptable thing, it has the potential to become divisive - as there is a pastoral power-imbalance, and the danger in the perception of others even if not born out in facts.

I did a mental audit of my friends - in the corporeal sense, not the Facebook sense - and being a natural hermit, have a few but very close life-long friends. I have not been one for clouds of friends of barely-above-acquaintance level, as I like to be close to my friends, and that trust is not easily given by me. It reminded me how far away we all live. The wonderful Mrs Acular is my bezzy mate, and was before we married, and she is the exception. The rest have all migrated through life and work to all ends of the country, or we have - leaving them behind. I recognise that this is common for religious ministers (it might also be that we just frighten off all our friends)

This also explains another emerging thing - the prevalent presence of priests on things like Twitter and Blog-shire. We speak of a community of friends (not in the corporeal sense) in our Tweeting and Bleating, and this is, I think,  partly because all our real friends are so far away. It is hard for us to pop down the local for a swift half, without a month of planning. Ours is often a lonely job because of the way we are called to connect in a slight disconnected way. It is not a bad thing, just a cultural and professional-boundaries kind of thing. 

It is hard at times though. I'd love it if life meant I could see my closest friends more than annually, or in the case of one, less frequently. The good thing, I guess, is that when we do get back together, the gap is as nothing and it feels as if we only met the last time yesterday. 


  1. Interesting question David and one I have had to wrestle with in previous parishes and am reflecting on as I prepare to go back in to parish ministry. When I was single and a curate there were one or two families that I became very close to and could trust. They have remained close friends since moving on.

    In the last parish where I was Team Rector we did have a few good friends and I didn't see that as a problem. Funnily enough the three that I was particularly good friends with all ended up ordained! I suspect that if one is working closely with people in a mentoring capacity then friendship is likely. I've never really held with the 'you can't have friends in the parish' line, though one has to be very clear about boundaries. It's also crucial to avoid exclusiveness and any sense of a clique.

    I guess the question is was Jesus friends with his disciples and what about Peter, James and John?

    Anyway, enjoying you blogging and have added you to my blog roll.

  2. Thanks for comment. As a priest with a way to go to catch you up in the experience stakes, it is good to hear of success stories in this. Naturally I am drawn to some more than others ... and of course you are right with your parallel about Jesus.

    A really helpful comment, and one I am challenged by. Ta!

    Glad you enjoy this little venture too! Always a welcome confession to hear!



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