Well, I'm off to Venice tomorrow with DarlingDaughter...and I have a fair bit to sort out here first (though at least I've managed to find my passport now), so I'm only doing the first 10 of these questions. They all deserve posts in themselves, really, but my brain is just not up to it tonight, so this will have to stand as my contribution to the debate pro tem. If you haven't all moved on long since before we return, I might tackle the last few questions then...but meanwhile, these are my not terribly considered answers to the first few questions.
1. Is being a pastor detrimental or helpful to your faith?
I think that’s a both/and…It means that I am freed to actually spend most of my time focussed on questions of faith; it gives me permission, indeed obligation, to take it seriously, - to engage, to study, to grow.
But it also deprives me of the opportunity to get lost in worship. By making my faith my “job” it threatens it with an aura of routine drudgery…of “going through the motions”.
: 2. Is being a pastor harder or easier than you imagined from your seminary days?
Don’t think my course was in any way an adequate preparation…except in so far as it accustomed me to the idea of being unprepared, of never having done “enough”. So,- yes, the bits of the role that I worried about in advance are probably easier, but some things, like those days when the diary is NOT overflowing, and I’m not actually clear that I have a “useful” function at all, were unforseen and thus so much harder.
: 3. Have you developed a passion/focus to your [pastoral] ministry?
I have always loved children’s/family ministry….but a new delight has been trying to find new and creative ways of helping others to pray. I guess that’s the focus I want to explore most as time goes by.
: 4. All this talk about clergy burnout-- is it any different than any other job?
The trouble with being clergy is that we are called to set Jesus before us as our model…and he ultimately gave his life. This tends to mean that you can feel pretty selfish and shallow carving out time for yourself…On the other hand, Jesus was very good at taking time out to be with his Father…learning to do that is more of a challenge than it should be. And it’s also an important safe- guard against meltdown, I’m sure.
: 5. How does the congregation show its support? What are the hidden perks to being a pastor?
Lots of hugs and affirmation. The way people are so incredibly generous with their hopes, fears and dreams.
: 6. How do you keep your children safe in their faith and church life?
I sit very light to church life. There is currently little provision for teenagers during worship at St M's , so I don’t make an issue of my children’s attendance. I try to be available if they want to talk “God talk” and I know they all have living relationships with Him…so I don’t fuss about the fact that they’re not there in church Sunday by Sunday. They engage deeply when the situation is right for them, -e.g. Greenbelt,- and I trust God to take care of the rest.
Since they’ve only found themselves as clergy children in their teens, and even now they are only the curate’s family, they have escaped much of the traditional burden of expectation loaded onto vicarage children…which is a blessing for which I truly thank God.
: 7. Do you admonish parishioners? If so, how?
Not so far, and to be honest, I can’t imagine it being part of my ministry. It’s not a traditional feature of the liberal/catholic approach really. I can imagine situations in which I probably should, but I rather pray that I’m not called to…Not my strong point, admonishing! Ask the family.
: 8. Do you pray for your flock? How?
Not enough…..I created a 3 monthly prayer cycle that covers most areas of our congregational life,- but it’s not always possible to keep up with it, what with the Anglican cycle of prayer, the two dozen names on the sick list etc….and in any case there are too many people who don’t fit in to any of the categories. I talk to God about specific situations and people most of the time…and I pray my socks off when administering Communion. I guess he knows that I love them and carry them on my heart….I do hope so.
: 9. Is it enough to be approachable? How do you approach them?
I think that much of my ministry involves loitering with intent, being there, available...but not pursuing. Is that cowardly? I'm not certain...If I sense that someone is moving towards me, I'll go out of my way to meet them...but I don't think it's up to me to force them.
: 10. Do you change lives?
Not me….I baptise babies, I celebrate the Eucharist, I even marry people, so I should be an agent of life changing events, but I don’t do the changing. I pray with people, and try to help them to encounter God. I love them as much as my pathetic capacity allows. But I don’t change lives. Of course not. That's for Him to do.