Vicaring is quite unlike any 'job'. Yes, it comes with the bi chromatic uniform [optional], a user manual [old and in need of translation] and a place to live. It is a 'job' without edges, where the day neither starts nor ends where time-management is the stuff of legend, where there is no salary or hourly rate, where there is a strange hierarchy into which you can opt [sensible] or not [has freehold]. Our particular 'company' has very few rules [save for entry qualifications] and very few 'branch offices' that can claim a semblance of similarity. Other 'companies', like with the one the Rome head-office, are replete with rules and guidelines which to some are onerous, but nonetheless provide a path upon which to walk. If I so chose, I could hide away fairly successfully for six days of every week so long as the Sunday extravaganza is put on for the punters, and a word or two of meaning uttered. Alternatively, I can work through every waking hour and look like a badly packed scarecrow on the Lord's Day simply through lack of sleep and time with the family. This happens in almost complete secret, behind the oak door of the house, where only wild speculation on the part of passers by may enter.
On one of my short sorties last week, I ambled onto a hospital ward like priests do [like we own the hospital and have every right to go where we want to when we want to] to see a nice lady who is poorly. I wasn't greeted with "How nice to see you Fr David", or even "I don't remember you, are you the vicar?". No - I was greeted with "Oh look, it's my vicar".
Much as we are told by those who are more experience than we that we are "their vicar", it is no less a surprise when we are made into possessions. I was rather surprised, though to be honest not in a bad way. In truth, it was nice to be called "my vicar". I am "their vicar". I am "theirs" - and yes, "theirs" to do with as they see fit.
In my last working life, I expected to be spoken to in a certain way [abusively, on the whole] by those I rolled up to serve every morning. It was part of the deal. However, when I took my GCSE in vicaring and took my diploma to a church on the first morning, I didn't expect what I found. The people expect us to be there when they want us, at the time they choose, in the manner of their choosing, and the purposes they determine. No question. "Their" vicar is there for them. Sometime, as I am chastised at the church door for daring to change something, I find myself wondering why one adult would be so presumptuous in language to another. Put another way - why would they ever talk to me like that? This is the negative side of this possession. The positive side is the way we are assumed in the moments of their lives. We have a place at every table in parish (almost) and in the homes of all those who regard us as "theirs". Like a faithful hound, we are [allegedly] a source of hope and courage [most of the time], a source of comfort and reassurance. Like all hounds, though, we can expect the odd kick [and I have yet to ask anyone to collect my dung].
The simple truth, having pondered this for some time now, is that they are "mine", and the arrangement is entirely reciprocal. Marvellous.