Friday, April 25, 2008

Sobering statistics and words of comfort

On Tuesday this week FabBishop had summoned all his clergy to a training day at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Leaving aside the fact that it always feels just plain wrong to be there when there's not so much as a whiff of Greenbelt about the place, it was an excellent day, when I loved catching up with friends and getting to know some new priests in the diocese too.
Our speaker was the Warden of Cranmer Hall, who spoke engagingly about the changing shape of ministry and its impact on the clergy she trains and supports.
There's lots I should share, if only to ensure that I don't lose track of it all in this relentless busyness...but this is Friday, and already things are blurring alarmingly.

She spoke of the sense that so many clergy feel that they are under judgement (their own, their congregation's and God's)....ruled by a concept of fantasy ministry in which we can be all things to all people, meet every need, visit 24 hours a day, hold our own in secular partnerships in the community...
Of our struggle to hold together demands and desires...our appreciation that this is a costly task, and our sense that we ought somehow to be able to do it all

She spoke too of the necessary death of such imagined ministry, to enable us to become real with ourselves and with God...of the harsh reality of knowing ourselves called to plant seeds while we live in a harvest-driven culture...and of the reality of our calling to minister in a twilight world
(The resurrection happened while it was yet dark...)

There was much that I recognised, much that I was glad to hear acknowledged - but I was so very sad to hear that according to an apparently reputable survey, the clergy pray for an average of 25 minutes per week, outside formal worship.
25 minutes.

And the reason that this is the average is that for many, there is no time spent in personal prayer at all.

I simply don't see how you can possibly survive in this task without at least believing, even if you don't always feel it, that prayer is going to make a difference...and thus that it's worth engaging with. My heart goes out to those who feel themselves completely alone, sans colleagues and sans God, in this bleak and hostile landscape.

One of Anne Dyer's main points was that, as priests we need one another ("Brother, sister, let me serve you, Let me be as Christ to you, Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too") I was hugely and delightfully aware as she spoke that I was sitting close to two people who, perhaps more than anyone else, enable my own ministry.
I don't feel alone, ever - and I know that I only have to wave and lifeboats would arrive before I'd ever got close to drowning.

During question time, someone passed on some wisdom from a training incumbent some decades ago
"Say your prayers and do your best"
That I could warm to...that, indeed, is pretty much what I try to do.
But not on my own. Never ever on my own.

1 comment:

Lorna said...

25 minutes a week -? I read somewhere that it was 12 minutes a day which sounded like nothing - but 25 minutes - well that's less than 4 minutes a day. It takes longer to make a cup of tea. now that's a thought - if every priest simply prayed every time s/he made a cup of tea/ coffee - well then ... I think there would be a significant difference both inside and out.

thanks K. for all you write. You continue to challenge me though I don't comment very often