Friday, 30 August 2013

Happy New Year

Hello world!

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. 


  1. Oh I do so hope you really mean it David.
    "When I am silent I hear", is very much at the root of things.
    Slow down, stop, look, listen and don't feel you 'have' to be the one to break the silence.
    You have the recipe dear friend, all you need to do now is follow it.
    Love and prayers.

  2. Thanks Ray, as ever. It was good to see you in deepest Surrey the other evening, and in answer to your question then - by the skin of my teeth.

  3. This post sounds like the fruit of a very productive summer break, David and it's good to read. Overworking is the temptation that assails far too many clergy (and I speak from bitter experience here). If you can manage to resist it and find a more wholesome and holy balance, that will do more for your ministry and your people than any number of 100-hour weeks.

  4. Hari OM
    It is good to see you back with us in blogland, sir, that too with a renewed sense of "purpose and point"... which is rather the 'purpose and point' of the good old summer hols I feel! Having recently decided NOT to take up full robes for many reasons, but including the fact that I just do not want to be trapped by the corporate pull that necessarily goes with such position now, I can appreciate your points here.

    Balancing spiritual requirements with those of fiscal and managerial matters will always be a path of hurdles. Your plan of action sounds good though. His Blessings will surely aid! YAM xx

  5. I can only admire your ability to lay it aside and to re-order your life, where time for family, and yourself are given the highest priority. Only than can you offer to serve your community and parish.

    I know that when I was working I was a workaholic as well, but when I had a partial breakdown in 2001, I learned a lesson that nothing is more important than my own health and well being, for my family and friends, but also for the job that I was doing at that time.

    I changed jobs the next year, for one with more responsibility, but much less pressure as by than, I'd learned that the team are there to work for and with me, not waiting for morsels to drop from my table (desk) for them to pick up.

    When I retired it took about six months to adjust to the fact that I was no longer important in the scheme of things, that someone had actually picked up where I left off and the ceiling hadn't fallen in :)

    Nowadays, I'm wrestling with the inability of the church which has recognised a vocation to lay ministry, to actually do something about training and deploying it. The cry is to empower the laity, but there appears to be a lack of will or get up and go or resources to actually do so.

    Prayers for you, your family and parish as you move forward once again.

  6. A real refreshing read David, may this new sense of balance remain xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  7. Great post. Getting the work/life balance is hard but getting it wrong is something that can be very costly.

    Prayers for you as you try to work it out. :)

  8. How can clergy overwork? Your churches are shrinking away faster than the polar ice caps.

  9. Thanks as ever, all.

    George, please don't be in danger of believing your own rhetoric - my church is growing at a pace, and I am not alone in this neck of the woods. Still, it is always good to greet a bandwagon as it passes through!




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