Friday, May 08, 2009

Not quite a day off

While I was a curate, the director of curate training reminded us at regular intervals that it was a mortal sin to work on your day off.
Even then, I lapsed once in a while, - WonderfulVicar and FabBishop both struggle to take time off, and without wishing to deny responsibility for my actions, it can be hard to draw firm boundaries when your bosses tend towards the more porous variety themselves. (+Mary was quite challenging on this front too: somehow she manages a study day each week as well as a proper day off...and I don't seem to have read a real book for weeks)
The big difference then was that,though I worked hard as a curate, I didn't carry the weight of responsibility that comes with being a real live vicar. Days off were fun, but not as physically necessary as they now are.
I don't mean by this that I'm staggering under a hideous load, that I can't sleep at night for worrying about the parish (though I have been known to wake up so horribly aware of items from the to do list that the only answer is to get up and get on with them) - but there is something very different about being the one in charge...and though it's a good something, it's also incredibly exhausting.

Thus my view of days off has altered over the past year.
I used to worry how to fill them creatively.Now, if I don't have a round of entertainment planned, that's perfectly OK. If I don't actually get up till the morning has almost vanished, that's fine too.
But what isn't fine at all is the way things that have to be done can sometimes stray onto a Friday, because I really do know that if I don't get a day off in the course of the week, I'll be floundering by the time the next Friday comes round.

Today, for example, has been Friday all day.
And yet,I've taken two funerals.
There were excellent reasons for this...I lost one parish day this week to the Bank holiday, and another to the Bishop's training/consultation day, and next week I'm away on a short course learning to be a training incumbent (how that came about is a wonder I don't propose to try and fathom) - so the funerals had to be fitted in somewhere...and today was the only solution.
But I know it's not a good idea, and I hate the idea that I might be using busyness as a means of quantifying my value as a minister here. It's always tricky, when you are theoretically in control of your own timetable..and here in these parishes, the expectations of the Sunday congregation are actually quite limited. Provided the services are there, and there are no obvious signs of pastoral neglect, I could pretty much set my own agenda, and, were I so minded, do very little from one Sunday to the next...But that, of course, would make me feel thoroughly insecure (leaving aside the possible impact on the mission of the church if the vicar did nothing beyond walking her dog - actually, that might be quite a positive model of ministry..hmmmn)
With all that lot chuntering gently round in my head, it was a mixed blessing to read Graham's post.
When my arm is sound, I do often cycle, and I'm hugely aware of how good it is. to be visible.
I love walking, though as Revd Last Minute, I do tend to leave insufficient time to get anywhere on time as a matter of form.
But I have to admit, I feel safer, more sure that I'm doing the "right" things here if there are lots of nice concrete appointments in the diary...lots of ways of proving to my own satisfaction that I'm a Really Useful Vicar.
I know that's a load of hooey, but it doesn't diminish its power...If we were all immune to the things we know are actually unreal, I wonder how the world would actually look. Time, perhaps, to consider the lilies.


Jonathan Hunt said...

Walking the dog is all the rage with missional types these days. Thing is, it actually works - you actually get to speak to real live people. That and just hanging about in the streets. Which makes me wonder why we have to live so far away from where our church actually is...

Songbird said...

Isn't there some midway point between overwork and no work at all? I am trying to live there, but it's certainly easy to slide one way or the other.

Song in my Heart said...

Concrete appointments can be misleading.

I'm a musician. The most important thing for me to do every day is to make music. If I am not doing that, I am not really making progress--in performance, in teaching, in composition.

And yet, and yet, it's so hard--SO hard--to schedule two hours of practising time per day, time to make music and work on getting better at making music, and to have that time be untouchable. It's so hard that the only way I manage it is by having the practising be, pretty much, the first act of work I do each day: everything before that (breakfast, prayer, commuting) is to get me to the point where I can practise effectively. If I'm running late, either because I oversleep or because I take too long at the "getting in touch with the world" bit of getting ready in the morning (translation: I mess about online instead of leaving the flat... but I have found I do need to touch base with other humans or practising feels very lonely), I still try to make sure I do my two hours. Ideally, the only things that are allowed to encroach on those two hours are medical appointments and music-making activities, and in both of those cases I still try to get my two hours in at some point before I consider my working day done. The rest of the day, if I can spare the time I'll do more practise, but there's so much chaff--reading, publicity, organising rehearsals, finding music, all the administrative flotsam and jetsam of a life with many interests. And most of that is important, too. If I don't do some publicity my musical career will be much harder. If I don't do paperwork my students will not learn as well, if I don't organise rehearsals I won't have them. It can all creep up and suddenly I have a calendar full of lots of concrete appointments, lots of busyness. But the practising, the actual act of taking time each day to make music, is the most important thing. That's the thing I do every weekday, and that's the thing I make sure I take a rest from on at least one weekend day. I try not to let the chaff creep in on days off but sometimes it does.

I don't know what the equivalent core task is in ministry, or how you might be able to organise your standard working day around it, or under what circumstances you'd be willing to allow some flexibility. Maybe the model I use as a musician isn't any use; I know I will have to adapt my model to fit varying circumstances at some point. But there are similarities, in terms of not having someone standing over you making decisions about what work to do and not, so I thought I'd offer it as an example of what can work.

Kathryn said...

Song, you are quite amazing...Your students are hugely fortunate, as I'm sure you help them to understand what's going on within the music as well as helping them to play the right notes.
Your comment, of course, demands that I spend time reflecting on what precisely IS the core of my ministry...I foresee a bit of time pouring and praying over the ordinal & a some further blog posts as I try to sort this out.
It would be tempting to say "Prayer" but I think that might be too simplistic, or at least, it might be possible to interpret that in too simplistic a way.
Mulling time

Sarah said...

I know things are getting bad when I sit down with fab colleague and we can't find a single slot in the next fortnight to pray together.

St said...

Just a silly thought but did you, on arrival in your new parish, visit the undertakers and tell them about your preferred day off and ask them what preferences they had about your behaviour? Not too late. Take a bottle of wine.

Kathryn said...

Thanks Steve, I did indeed & they are among the colleagues who are best at trying to keep it clear on the whole...but my absence next week meant we really couldn't work it any other way.

Song in my Heart said...

Your students are hugely fortunate, as I'm sure you help them to understand what's going on within the music as well as helping them to play the right notes.

Thank you. I hope that you are right. Teaching them only to play the right notes wouldn't make me a teacher of music, it would make me a teacher of notes. The notes serve the music, not the other way around, in teaching and in performance.

Your comment, of course, demands that I spend time reflecting on what precisely IS the core of my ministry...I foresee a bit of time pouring and praying over the ordinal & a some further blog posts as I try to sort this out.

Maybe there's a sort of spiral. I've known for a long time that if I have a vocation or purpose at all it's as a musician, but that's a very wide field. In the last few years I've come to recognise that teaching is a big part of things for me, but that it isn't all I want to do. More recently (maybe in the past year?) I've been having inklings of what performance actually means for me, and of how my views on copyright and intellectual property line up with my musical life and what I need to do about that. Even more recently there have been the vaguest shadowy hints of how the copyright stuff is tied into my spirituality, and how the musical skills I have could grow and also be useful in a religious context. None of the more recent things make me not a musician any more, none of them make me not a teacher any more... each level of the spiral staircase is an enhancement of the last one. It's still the same staircase.

I look forward to seeing your reflections if you decide to post them.

It would be tempting to say "Prayer" but I think that might be too simplistic, or at least, it might be possible to interpret that in too simplistic a way.That's only simplistic if "practising" is too simplistic for me. I'd say it's a very broad category, though, especially if you have any belief that every action can be a prayer of sorts.

So how do you think you should interpret it? How do you think you are called to interpret it?

I practise for two hours a day (more if I can, less if I really mess up) and that is absolutely the core of my being a musician, but if it were all I did I would stop having a reason to do it sooner or later. But it goes the other way, too: if I do the practising, I find that the other stuff comes more easily. Maybe that's another way to look at this: what is something you could do every day that will make other aspects of ministry more clear to you or easier for you to implement? That might well be prayer, but it might be any number of other aspects of ministry.