Friday, 16 September 2011

A Curate in Vicar's Clothes

As the title change of this blog might suggest, I am now across the line that divides one ministry from another. The line itself was a wonderful and emotional Service, attended by so many friends and friends-to-be, family and well-wishers, filled with (I think, because I chose it all) rousing music that all could sing at the top of their voices. 

Across the line I am now in a new Diocese, working with new people and for a new Bishop. I have a different job with different expectations, facing a different future in a different house and with loved ones who themselves are doing different things in different places. 

I am sort of wondering when the penny will drop and I will have map routed out in front of me. It was in my curacy. I know what I was doing and when, for whom and why. As you know, mine was a richly blessed curacy but one that was crammed full. Each day was full-on - and that in a training role too. Instinct told me that when I crossed the line to the next ministry, it would be even more that way: crammed to capacity.

A few of my friends have recently walked across this line. We were curates and now we are incumbents or the like. Their eyes were once cast towards a mentor for the direction and the plan. All eyes are on us now. It is a very funny feeling, not unpleasant - and so far, all is quiet. Today I prayed in the church alone (and did some nosing around). Today I pootled up the High Street and had some useful chats with people. Today I will complete sermons for the four services that I will be part of. I am secretly hoping that the Guide Book for Incumbents is in the drawer somewhere so I can tick off 'Jobs for the First Week', confident as I am that I have surely forgotten something. 

Ministry is, I suppose, not set in stones (paradoxically). We are rooted in a parish that has a church. Sometimes that church has services that I will have some control of. But that is about it. How I spend the next decade is, broadly, in my own hands and that has the potential to be an alarming thought if laboured too much. For me, I want to be furiously active saving the world for God (often forgetting that God has a part, not just me). For now, I have no specific work-load and I wonder if I am just meant to be wondering. What am I called to do in this parish? What and where are the signs? What do I represent to these hope filled people? What needs changing, if anything? Where are we called to go, together? 

If this post feels a little strange, that is because I am still a Curate in Vicar's clothes. I still yearn to be spoon-fed like before, but know that there is no longer a spoon. I am happy and fearful, overjoyed and worried - all in equal measure. The only thing I know with absolute certainty is that I am meant to be here. The rest will become clearer in the days and weeks ahead.

... I hope!


  1. David, I see the start to a wonderful ministry. Sure it's starting quietly, but I sense that you will find willing mentors among your fellow incumbents in the Deanery and Diocese.

    I know that whenever I changed jobs, I went filled with hope, mixed with nervous apprehension - would I be up to the challenges? Would I be able to enable and empower those working with me? Had I made the right decision to jump ship from my comfort zone into the fire? But somehow, within days, things slot into place, pieces of the jigsaw stand out and you seem to know what needs doing urgently, and what can be given a lower priority of desirable in the longer term. You are back in your comfort zone.

    But I knew what I was doing. I was well trained and very experienced in the roles. I had rehearsed for years for them, particularly post-commissioning. I had led as a soldier, as an officer I would command. Subtly different. But very fulfilling.

    Adaptability in outlook and flexibility of mind serve you well in change, and leading change will no doubt be part of your role as Vicar. Nothing can stand still, or will stagnate, I suspect that the difference between being a curate and incumbent is the knowledge that as a curate you have a safety net of the Vicar. As the Vicar, it's in God's and your hands. What a wonderful place to be!

    I will be following your writings with interest.
    And praying with hope and love for your ministry.

  2. Congratulations! Having crossed (good word) over, I've no doubt that anyone still able to "pootle" will be as good a Vicar as they were a Curate.

  3. You are still the Bishop's curate, a different Bishop, just no longer an assistant curate.

    I'm sure you stopped being spoon fed a long time ago.

    It sounds so very exciting.

  4. If the atmosphere on Wednesday evening was any indication I would say you will only too soon find yourself fully involved in your new flock and wishing for a little more space and reflection time.
    Enjoy your peace while you can.
    I suspect your parishioners will soon get to know you and leave you in no doubt as to where and when you are needed.
    It must be quite a strange feeling to be flying solo, but one for which you are very well equipped.

  5. You ask what you are called to do in this parish- might I suggest you are called to 'be' and in that being to hear that still small voice of calm and guidance?

  6. As someone who has to be careful regarding my mental health I offer you three pieces of advice.

    1. Replace your training vicar with a detailed rota for the week (Monday - home communions, Tuesday morning - sermon prep. whatever) and stick to it rigidly unless something comes along like a funeral or deanery meeting etc. If you suffer from any level of compulsive disorder you will find this extremely comforting.

    2. Never, never, never feel guilty if you find yourself with nothing to do. Enjoy such times and don't fill such breathing spaces with useless meetings which is a very common practice among clergy who feel compelled to prove to everybody that they work 24 hours a day (as if the God of the labourers cares).

    3. Never get into conversations with other clergy about how much work you do. It's boastful, harmful to your sense of worth and, anyway, clergy never tell the truth about the work they do.



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