You may, and not entirely unreasonably, be wondering why I am wishing you all a Happy New Year. Surely it is still August; surely the daylight (here, at least) lingers until almost 8pm; surely the Turkey population of Norfolk is in fine fettle. While I am at it, let me introduce you to the cartoon characters that most helpfully illustrate my personae - the one people think I have and the one I actually have. There you have it, in the forms of Ren and Stimpy, a timely pointer to my inner-misanthrope.
Well, I took my rest. I stopped, I read, and indeed have written. It is true to say, dear reader, that I am using you as an excuse to step away from all matters "epiclesis", such as is my scholarly pleasure these days. The summer has proffered its own ups and downs but the English weather has erred towards the optimistic and my vegetables grew so that is alright. In fact, if you want runner beans, let me know - I am sick of bloody runner beans.
Back to my unseasonal greeting. It bares a specific relationship to my last post when I effectively signed off for a while. During the intervening period I have also had a specific and full break from work (including the severing of electricity from the Silicon Chip Mistress for a full two weeks). I have discovered the very real pleasures of the Isle of Wight and enjoyed some very real quality time with my family. I continue to miss the worlds of Twitter and Facebook but not the effects that they had on me. Now, you may know what I mean when I say that in taking some time away (and I even locked my own study door and gave the key to someone else) I found some return to form in terms of creative juice. During my ordained ministry I have discovered that the summer holiday becomes a very rich seam for new and good ideas. So much so, in fact, that the return to work after a good summer holiday feels like a proper and good new beginning.
For all sorts of reasons I have had to give serious thought to my working patterns. I, like all clergy, am my own worst enemy and only by my own hand will I live or die in this job. Fr Haggar will claim that I am bragging again, but the truth is, that 60-70 hour weeks, every week, is tantamount to gentle suicide and as such is quite removed from boasting about being awfully busy, to being a confession about getting the balance completely wrong. I think it is fair to say that I have approached my incumbency with the mindset of a business manager. I have placed high regard on targets in their form, the delivery of the product, getting it "right", success and growth. When I was a business manager, I was fairly successful and it paid the mortgage, but that was that and this is this. I am not a business manager, yet have significant responsibility for the Parish Plc. There is, whether we are honest about it or not, something of a spiritual profit involved, and for those profits to slip is regarded as anathema, failure, bad, wrong. So what to do?
Do you know what? I am going to try and achieve more by doing less. I am going to stop more, even start having lunch once in a while. The fact is, my summer vacation has been teaching me a yearly lesson that I have completely lost sight of - that when I am still, God speaks. When I am silent, I hear. When I shut my eyes, I see. When I stop thinking, I start to learn and begin to know. When I put down the tools of the trade, I can become very creative. It is also fair to say that pathological workaholism is an uneasy escape from the real work that is asked of a priest.
And after all, the results weren't and aren't ever really mine in the first place.
Happy New Year, friends. Thank you for your companionship and for taking the time to stop by and read my paltry offerings. You are a blessing.