...is the ability to be in two places at once...
If you got the idea that things were busy in my last blog posting (which was, I admit, a little while ago) then you ain't seen nothing yet. It's busy here, to say the least, and I am looking forward to a little break after Christmas. I have endeavoured to be at most events I have been invited to, but even then a couple have slipped through the net due to other commitments, and simply not having enough time or energy to do everything. I decided I really had to have an evening with my wife and not be rushing out from the family on Monday night, as I have done every other night for the past week or so, but it meant missing a village event that I would have liked to be a part of. I simply couldn't do any more, or I would probably be little use to anyone when we get to the Carol services this weekend and the Christmas celebrations next week. I am giving up half of my day off to do a carol service and then head off to a local pub to sing carols with an excellent choir tomorrow anyway, I didn't really thing I could fit anything else in. (for those of you who get very anxious when clergy start missing days off a) I will try and take a few hours off on Saturday and b) it's only once a year, or at least that's the plan - trying to fit in all the Christmas events is virtually impossible).
All this, though, has caused me to consider my response to the expectations of parishes - I have tried to get to as many events as I was able to, but obviously can't do it all - and I can't live up to the expectations of five parishes who would all like to have the Vicar at events. Am I trying too hard to live up to unrealistic expectations? I certainly do a good job of beating myself up (metaphorically speaking, obviously) when I miss anything!
I don't feel that, on the whole, these new, wonderful (and they are great) parishes are overly demanding, the Churches are putting huge amounts of effort into putting on events themselves and are, as I have said before, extremely grateful and welcoming when I do manage to get to something. There are occasions in the life of any village, however, where there is an expectation that the Vicar will turn up, and I continue to struggle with how appropriate it is for me to try to live up to that and whether I am trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.
The danger for anyone in a 'dispersed ministry' is that we try to get to too many places, too many events and that ultimately we spread ourselves so thinly that we are little use to any of them. In the past ten days I have been to five school services, three Christmas lunches, three pastoral pub visits (with some amazing conversations about faith whilst there), a dozen or so church services, two funeral visits and the funeral that went with them, a baptism visit (takes an evening out of a week), various social events and some home visits. I'm not complaining, exactly the opposite in fact, it has been a great time, but its not something I could sustain in the long term, nor could I realistically have fitted much more in. It's worth saying that I got to spend some time with my family too, and made sure that in the middle of all this I did actually take a whole day off!
So part of my adjusting to a new situation, a new set up, is trying to share my time realistically. It is a good thing to have to remember that I am not superhuman and shouldn't consider myself to be (definitely ideas above station there!) and to plan how I might be as visible as possible whilst effectively meeting people where they are. It's also part of the education of parishes that this generation of ministers have a responsibility for that not seeing the Vicar and seeing instead another member of the Clergy or a lay minister or other members of the Church community is not second best - in fact in certain situations the 'other person' may well be the best person to see.
As you can probably tell whilst I talk myself into circles here, I am considering and reconsidering both my role as Vicar and the role of our other ministers, and of the Churches and the people within them as meeting the pastoral and social needs of the parish. I won't always get it right, and I am sure I have made some gaffs already, but I am striving to do my best and to discern the best way forward too! I suspect that this will be something I work on for the next, oh, twenty or thirty years or so...