Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Do - be - do - be - do

After a madly busy day, with little time to breathe, still less to reflect I find myself in urgent need of a blog post for this evening.
So, as quite often when I'm in need of friendly advice of any kind, I turn to twitter...
Twitter - such a difficult concept to explain to those who don't belong.
So often I find myself trying to answer questions that go something like this...
How is it possible to form meaningful relationships with anyone based on 140 characters?
Don't you just tell the world "I'm on the train"...?
How do you deal with all that shameless self-promotion?
Actually, my reality is more like this:
Twitter - the virtual common-room where I'm likely to find at least a few friends with time for a chat at almost any hour of day or night.
Twitter - my place of first resort when I need prayer, comfort or a really good laugh.

And because you can get a really good idea of someone when they offer you 140 characters at regular intervals every day for several years, 
Twitter- the place where an appeal for inspiration for today's blog post netted in under a minute two words linked, I think, by my own somewhat manic lifestyle
"Being" said Christine.
"Wholly" said Alice.

Just seeing the words in my twitter stream inspired instant guilt.
Only this morning I had noised my busyness abroad!
One of my first tweets this morning ran thus:
Morning prayer,funeral, curate supervision, dentist, Trustees meeting, pastoral visiting, team meeting #dayinatweet #praying4stamina
I know I am disturbingly susceptible to the clerical vice of shouting about an over-full diary, - a defence against the anxiety that I might actually not be doing anything worthwile at all. I don't THINK this morning's tweet was part of that process, but I also think it's important that I should ask the question.
If I need to tell other people how busy I am in order to bolster my own self-worth, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark but at the moment I'm not feeling particularly defensive. Indeed, after a recent hard look at the shape of my ministry, in preparation for a forthcoming ministerial review, I'm particularly aware of what I do in the course of bread and butter vicaring - and it's startling how much actually gets done in the course of a week. 
Some of it is even quite close to the centre of my calling - rather than simply feverish running around the parish squawking as I go!
So, I'm feeling rather brighter about  the things I do to live out my vocation...and I'm quite clear that even on a bad day at least some of the things I do, maybe even a majority, have their roots in a response to God's over-riding call to priesthood, or the more specific call to be HIS person in this place.

But DOING is one thing - BEING quite quite different.

In these days of Common Tenure, though clergy remain office holders rather than employees, we no longer have quite the same sense of being licensed to "the living".
Though the stipend I receive is designed to free me from financial anxiety so that I can most effectively live out whatever God wants of His priest in this place, it's far too easy to see the sum that arrives each month in my bank account as payment for feverish activity.
A recent conversation on (yes, you've guessed it) Twitter highlighted the perennial issue of work with porous boundaries...
Is it good to share a pint with a friend who is also a parishioner on a day off? 
How does one explain to even the most loving of congregations that sometimes the absence of their company is a blessing?
And, for heaven's sake, what does the vicar DO all day that means she can't be instantly present when I need her?
But that's all about doing again...And we are called to BE
As someone who is disturbingly distractable, the thought that I might be wholly present to whatever situation, whichever person is before me both attracts and terrifies.
But I long to be that sort of priest.
One with the gift of making everyone I encounter feel uniquely attended to, uniquely important.
One who doesn't have to hurtle round in anxious orbit of my own diary.
One who has enough sense of herself to be at rest in the here and now, neither scattered nor distracted but wholly focussed on the present moment, since that is the only time when I can hope to encounter God.

In January every year, when I pray for my Methodist friends on Covenant Sunday, I am struck afresh by the terror of that most beautiful Covenant prayer.
How, I wonder, do quite ordinary quiet little congregations cope with praying those words and expecting God to honour them?
Would I ever have the courage to pray
"Let me employed for you, or laid aside for you", to just stand in God's presence with no activities or achievements to distract?

I truly don't know, but it seems to me that it would be a wonderful thing to try.


UKViewer said...

Time management is an honoured business strategy, but if being a Priest means being a business woman, that it might make sense.

But being a priest is surely about just 'being' there for God and for people as perhaps a conduit of God's grace and peace to all. If you are living in a frantic rush to squeeze everything in, aren't you in danger of burning out? :(

It seems to me that you are in need of some good admin support, someone reliable who can cope with the routine, while you get on with doing the spiritual and difficult (if that makes sense).

Prayers for some peace and space in your life in the meantime.

Christine McIntosh said...

I'm so glad you wrote this! I suspect the word I gave you - and it came in a trice - was a response to my own life as well.

jante said...

As a curate I'm finding the learning to BE rather than DO, the hardest lesson to learn. And I too love the Covenant prayer but find that particular line hard to pray.