Thursday, February 01, 2007

What does a priest do?

There's been some wonderful posting of late, with Maggi highlighting a discussion which started at Sam's blog on "workload, priorities, vocation".
As anyone reading this surely knows , I'm chaotic by nature and find it really hard to use time well and wisely, so I was probably hoping for magic answers, but was not unduly surprised to find them eluding me. There is something madly attractive about MadPriest's uncompromising declaration that he defines his priesthood in the terms set out in the Ordinal, no more and no less. So he presides, teaches, visits - and leaves the other parochial tasks to others.
I don't have to think for more than a moment to agree that these are the parts of ministry that make me sing...that a day which involves none of them will leave me grumpy and dissatisfied, unsure what I'm really for.
But even in a church like St M's, with cohorts of hugely able and willing volunteers to carry out the institutional housekeeping, there is still a weight of stuff to be carried beyond these core vocations. If my calling is in part "proclaim the Gospel afresh" in this generation, then I must bear some responsibility for the mechanics of that proclamation...If I have a particular vision for the life of the church, I may well need to be actively involved in the minutae of translating that vision into reality....But still...committee meetings 3 nights running, a study sinking under the weight of unread that really what it's about?
In reflecting on my time in India, I concluded that part of the joy of being there was that I was freed for the month to live my priesthood as I'm not always able to here, even as the humble, unencumbered curate. In pondering how I should do things when I become a Grown Up Vicar with a Parish of my Own, I'm haunted by the terrifying line quoted by Sam's cell group "Incumbency drives out priesthood".
I know I'm not going to turn into an amazing administrator overnight, and that I'll always struggle to draw clear boundary lines defining my ministry,- that I'll always wonder if I ought to be doing something more. It's so tempting to say "Yes" to any number of invitations to join diocesan groups, since an afternoon spent at a meeting is a happily defined chunk of working time, that I can tick off with a clear conscience...whereas time in the study is too easily sidetracked (among other things, by my compulsive need to blog) A deranged bit of me feels that, even though I know I can't do and be everything to all, I ought to have a damn good try.
But if, ultimately, I cling to the Michael Ramsey definition of priest as walking sacrament, then I'm called to be a sign of God's loving presence in his world, and not a sign of the stressed and burned-out times.
Working out how that will look is a challenge for the months ahead, which will be shaped by the context of my next ministry when the time is right.

1 comment:

reverendmother said...

I love this post and the ones you linked to. Such, such important stuff. Thank you.