Monday, 10 January 2011

Guide Me, Oh Thou Training Incumbent

One of my small claims of success in my former business life  was that for the company in the area in which I worked - London in this case - I was responsible for the identification of 40% of the staff newly promoted to management roles. This ranged from noticing, identifying, promoting, training and developing these individual men and women. This is something of which I am perhaps proudest, as I regard training and development to be a key duty of management. A decade later, no small number of these people are in full manager roles in large stores around London. I regard it as one my natural skills and one that I was called to use for the betterment of others in their careers. 

I am in a training role now. I am subject to training and development, and I consider it to be a God-given gift. Nothing less. 

To the best of my knowledge, in the Church of England, everyone who wears a dog-collar (notionally or in fact) has been the worthy recipient of a curacy. The role of curate (or more accurately, 'assistant curate' as the Incumbent is always the curate, having 'cure of souls' with the Bishop) is broadly a training role. Some retain this position after training, but on the whole, curates are those being trained into their ministry and out towards self-sufficient ministries such as incumbencies, sector chaplaincies, armed forces chaplaincies and so on. Curates are trained and developed by their 'Training Incumbents' - those priests of experience and relevant skill who are designated to oversee curacies. If I listen to some curates, Training Incumbents appear to be either woeful or wonderful - never occupying the middle ground. I am blessed with the latter. 

If I may be so bold as to say, for I am am manifestly not a training incumbent, the job of one is to receive a raw deacon, discern the skills and talents that they bring (often buried in soft soil during theological education while the Bible and Moltmann are discussed at length), apply them to things that are outside of the experience of the cleric in their care, and with any luck, hope that this discernment was right. In the case of my incumbent,   I work with a man who gives up many of the 'cherries' from the tree that I may enjoy them. Some things energise priests, and a good number of those things are placed in my hands, leaving him a lot of the hard-slog stuff. I do not under-rate or under-estimate the kindness of this, and as a result, I enjoy a very good training experience. The fellow that I work with has worked me out very well, knowing how it is that I tick - and has even found a way of doing the thing I don't normally take well, and 'putting me straight' on occasions. We both fill a large space by virtue of our personalities, but I sense that he stands aside many times to let me bask in the light and enjoy the experience of curacy. I have been exposed to such a wide range of experiences - school, civic, armed forces, church financial, techy - and so the list goes on. I have been given every chance and opportunity to discover things that I seem to have a gift for - and without the wisdom of my incumbent, not one would have been made manifest to me. I am truly and richly blessed by him.

Curacy is a rare gift in life. It is an extended period of on-the-job training. It needs to be received with generosity (for as natural leaders, we need to be generous enough to accept that we are not already the perfect priest). It also needs to be received with gratitude and humility, and for this reason I have a very considerable issue with curates who want to run the show at diocesan level or even higher. To be trained acknowledges the need, and to have the grace to receive it while it there. I believe that while not a universal thing, most curacies are good and positive, and surely one of the most significant sacraments that a priest could ever receive. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...