Thursday, 8 December 2011

What I Miss About Curacy

Before I say anything else I must state, in absolute terms, that I have the best darn job in the world. Whitton, Lundun Tahn, Boeing 747s, charging Stags - love it love it love it. The parish, its people, the community, all of it - love it love it love it.

Yet it is worthy of comment that I miss my curacy and miss it considerably. I think that these two things are not mutually incompatible, so feel able to open these thoughts out - in case they are of use to other folk (professionally or voyeuristically). 

Curacy (in the 'training role' sense) is a specific, once-only gift. I have often been annoyed by those who, without reason, have mumped about their training experience, the free house, the free professional on-site tuition, the willing folk of the parish who entrust some of their life's needs to the Noobie. There are, of course, those who have appalling curacies - but they are the small minority. I am not one such lad - mine was good, very good. 

What I miss about curacy is the envelope that surrounded me as I ministered. Perhaps it was a cocoon but it was a nice place to be. Part of that was found in being part of a Team Benefice, but knowing that one's first ministerial steps were over a soft landing was a specific relief and joy. That ''stableiser" thing in the first weeks and months gave way to simply being able to work alongside someone else who had to do a similar job, someone with whom things could be discussed and dreams dreamt. Being the Vicar changes that, subtly, with the job of incumbent being surround more in a sort of loneliness than the old life. Yes, I miss having a Training Incumbent and all the dimensions such a person brings.  

Having the buck stop with me, as it were, is a two-edged sword. I like to think I am an energetic and creative man, with a comfort for being decisive. I like having the buck stop with me, but it brings its own stresses and strains, as I am not one who is always as convinced by my own rightness as I might convey. In short, I worry, more than I used to as a curate. 

Curacy is a far more pastoral ministry I find. I am blessed indeed by the presence of another priest for whom pastoralia is a clear gift. I remember, as a curate, wondering if I was 'stealing' all the priestly stuff while the Boss dealt with strategy, money and the stones in the walls. He was very graceful, and I think I now know why. Modern incumbents are less about direct pastoral work than perhaps they once were. Mine is, by default (which is to say I didn't opt for a change in focus per se) a more strategic working life, and one where I have to trust much of the pastoral to the care of others. While in hindsight it seems obvious, it has been an unexpected change in my ministry. 

Whilst I am a pratt a lot of the time (or shall we say 'smiling fool'), curacy was a more appropriate platform to be the clerical clown, the funny man, the ball of slightly unhinged energy. Incumbency is marked more by the demands of being strong through changes, resilient in the face of direct criticism that is not found in training. I am the chairman of the board, promoted from marketting and entertainment! I think I look at it as having 'grown up' in ministry (although I am still a nutter from time to time).

Taking the lead is exposing and vulnerable. Hiding behind a leader is safe and comfy. That said, being in the front seat is exciting and nail-bitey and the uncertainties are compelling. People who said that the learning curve from curacy to incumbency is steeper than that from old life to curacy were right. 

But I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world. 


  1. David, you sum up the sea-change between curacy and incumbancy very well. I'm glad you are still enjoying your ministry so much, but it isn't easy to adapt to a different way of doing things and to being where the buck sops, whether the buck is soft or hard and spiky. Chin up- you're doing a grand job!

  2. I have had the privilege of working for four different vicars and my closest friend is a vicar's wife. I've seen a lot up close and personal and so often the 'flock' has no appreciation of the trials, tribulations, and demands made on you and on your families. I can understand your missing the curacy! But God bless you for your work and especially at this time of year, which can sometimes be as much a season of nightmare as joy.

  3. you have captured the experience of the change so well. It all chimes with me. I too had a fabulous curacy and I miss my Training Incumbent very much. I now also understand him better as I know something of what he was experiencing. I think the learning curve is very very steep and it is ahuge leap from curate to incumbent. Someone said to me last week that it is like going from Newly Qualified Teacher to Headteacher in one step.

  4. Thanks for the Joyce Grenfell David, one I'd forgotten.
    Apart from the always gentle humour I was always struck by her very good voice.

  5. I knew you'd appreciate that one, Ray! Hope that it gave you a smile :)

  6. Isn't that always the way: the downside of the upside?!!

  7. It's often the case that we appreciate things best in retrospect. Cut yourself a little slack as the Christmas rush beckons and enjoy. Every Blessing



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