Another session with the Shiny Work Consultant yesterday.Conversation ranged far and wide around myriad aspects of parish life and clerical chaos theory.This hasn't been a great week for work/life balance here at the vicarage. First there was the discovery of a couple of impossible double-bookings, occasioned by my tendency to believe that I'll REMEMBER fun things that I really want to do (sadly no: I very nearly committed myself to conduct a baptism on a SATURDAY when I should have been at not one but two weddings...) and by the folly of thinking that I can even see straight during Holy Week, still less take hall bookings in a responsible way.
Learning points there: abandon attempts to handle hall bookings (which I only took on as a temporary measure almost a year ago now)...Once something is handed on, don't worry about the details of how it is done - it will almost certainly work out, though not necessarily as you've envisaged, and that's no bad thing.
Write everything down immediately if not sooner, in red if it's fun.
Though when I returned home from holiday there were several promising gaps in the diary, a wedding couple, a funeral and a hospital visit soon ensured that the space that I'd imagined using for thoughtful work on a few biggish projects soon dwindled to nothing.
Learning point: write in preparation time...It absolutely has to happen, and burning midnight oil is rarely a route to achieving the best
On Monday, a small group of clergybirds met in my sitting room to talk about Justin's book. We are all contemporaries in ministry, who recognised that when we finished the CME1-4 training and were launched as fully-fledged incumbents we would miss the regular contact which the monthly doses of curate training had ensured...We also worried that we might never read a serious book again, so planned a regular reading group. 2 years on, I think we have actually managed to read 4 or maybe even 5 books (let's see...there was "Blue like Jazz" (which we largely hated)
"Take this Bread" (even split...I loved it but others were unimpressed...) "Tokens of Trust" (did we actually discuss this...or were we sidetracked by Life along the way?)
"Velvet Elvis" (still great - though this was by no means my first reading of it) and this time "If you meet George Herbert....". It says alot about the way life spirals out of control that it proves so hard to actually read books that I have suggested, or to find time to discuss them with people whom I want to see...and it's not much consolation that it's just as hard for the others too. Symptoms, symptoms...
Hence our decision to read "If you meet..." Sooo much of the book resonated with our own experience...I'm still giggling ruefully about the train-spotting vicar who, when quizzed about his daily pilgrimage to the railway line said
"It's good to see one thing in the parish that I don't have to run" : sometimes this can feel so close to the truth.
BUT (sorry Justin) we could see ourselves using the book, with all its hard-won knowledge, as another weapon with which to beat ourselves. I loved the balance in the suggested Rule of Life but the thought of even trying to implement it myself filled me with a wholly unwelcome panic. Yes, I want time to read, time to study, time to write, time to grow - but not at the cost of relationships within these parishes...I can and will attempt at monthly reading day, but more than that simply wouldn't help me. And that's what it's about, isn't it...Finding a route to enable flourishing in every aspect of life...If it works, splendid...if not, put it down. Yes?
For the moment, I'm committed to the SCP Rule , which should keep me on track spiritually, and any addenda are likely to result in my throwing in the towel altogether.
So this time I've come home fired with enthusiasm for bright pink star shaped memos, writing "to do's" on red paper, and encouraging the congregation to write in a notebook those things they'd like me to attend to. It's really not great to keep on washing reminders to "Pray for X" or "Visit Y" when the notes get left in a pocket after the Sunday Eucharist!
I might even try and manage the diary, at least a little bit. Next week includes 2 important bits of writing...perhaps I could factor them in to the planning now. How's that for revolution?
Important PS I'm very aware that wise and wonderful friends have been saying all of this to me for months, if not years. Please don't think I've not heard your advice or tried to follow it...It just takes a very long time to turn round a liner, and your wisdom (some of which remains blutacked above the desk, beside my bed AND on the front door) is almost certainly the only reason I had the courage to ask Shiny Work Consultant for help at all.