I have spent what I consider to be a fruitful morning in my study within the parish house. Tasks, once listed, have been completed. The main duty each Wednesday morning is to collate and publish the weekly eBulletin which is sent to every member of the parish but three. But today also demanded that I wrote letters to our sponsored charities; and the parish calendar and associated event schedules for the next few months also needed care and attention. I was also able to meet with the Outreach Committee for some forty-five minutes, call a few parishioners, and email even more people about matters pressing (or not.) And before all of these things I had to take a dog to the “vee-ee-tee” to have a dressing changed.
Ordinarily I would now go home for lunch but I also have one more appointment in less than an hour. So I am enjoying writing a few words and reflecting on the quite extraordinary work patterns of some of my fellow clergy. For many appear to be constantly busy, and thrive on meetings.
Meetings. Meetings. Let’s just see what some of them are doing between now and Sunday morning. One holds a parish staff meeting every, yes every morning with the Parish Administrator, the Sexton and a warden. (The organist attends every Thursday.) Another seems heaven-bent on attending every workshop and seminar that the diocesan study center can offer. Yet another feels duty bound to be present on the church campus whenever a self-help group is meeting in the buildings – just in case. Well, she’s there just in case nine times a week at some most irregular hours. And another… well, I hope that the picture I am trying to paint is becoming clear.
At levels above that of my deanery (and even within that there is one local,weary voice) I hear the clerical complaints all the time. Too many meetings. Not enough time in the day. Diocesan pressure. A visit to the diocesan website confirms that the wheels of administration, education and planning continue to indifferently grind over more traditional models of ministry, and I’m sure that other dioceses do the same. Bless them, but why? Why do they work the way they do, and why have they created a corporate structure that seemingly has no real purpose other than justifying itself?
My honest answer is that I do not know. I once thought that this was some perversion of the Protestant work ethic, but then realized that the Roman Catholic Church is equally guilty. And as they are better at guilt than we Anglicans that destroys my argument. But perhaps it is something to do with guilt – and insecurity. Taking a leaf from the secular book, priests who do not have a full calendar page or a string of visible activities feel guilty. And so they look for things to do, meetings to convene, events to attend. And immediately they feel better, and then have something to complain about!
The traditional template for Anglican ministry was and is never like this. The rector or vicar was never idle, God forbid, but was never busy. His ministry, divided between church and study, was always balanced and calm. And it allowed for many creative pastimes and activities that set him apart from others within the community. Thus within his soul he was content, and so were those around him.
This afternoon I may make some marmalade…