Thursday, January 08, 2009

Happy New Year

Yes, I recognise it's been a while since I posted, but following Christmas I went off for a few days for a break with the family and then since coming back have been gradually working on a lovely streaming cold, which has finally hit and left me particularly muzzy headed and somewhat tired.

I am pleased, though, that my traditional (do something once in the Church of England and it is an innovation, twice is a tradition) 'sometime-around-Christmas' Cold held off both through the Christmas season and my post-Christmas break. It's only been the past three or four days when it has really affected me. This, of course, puts me out of visiting people, as I don't want to make their lives worse by my advent, and has rather left me marooned in the study trying to plough through the mountains of paper that really should have been dealt with before.

I have mentioned before that Church life contains much more admin than most people realise. Being the 'established Church' means that, although receiving no money from the state, the Church of England does have certain privileges and responsibilities. Every quarter we must make sure that the local register office has copies of any entries in Marriage registers, or 'a certificate of no return' stating the entry number of the last wedding so that records can be tallied. We have certain regulations relating to Churchyards and placing memorials/gravestones/plaques in Churchyards which require that each application conforms to a certain standard. Each of these applications (two or three a month, usually) needs to be checked, signed off in triplicate and the legal fees associated with them are passed on to parish treasurers who pass them on again to the Diocese. All funerals, weddings and baptisms have to have complete records kept, along with any service held in a parish Church. I also have to keep records of all my mileage and expenses of office which I then add up and send off to the treasurer responsible for them - as this can often run up to £500 a month I do need to keep careful records and remember to submit them - something which my last treasurer will tell you I am not very good at (in fact I still have some claims outstanding from my last job, let alone getting to grips with this one!)

Often there are charities associated with particular parishes, which have to be kept up to date, have trustee meetings and have any income/expenditure reported to the Charity Commissioners. Alongside this there is the planning and circulation of rotas, Parochial Church Council (PCC) meetings/minutes/agendas which need checking (they are prepared usually by a small army of extremely competent and helpful PCC Secretaries. In this 'Five Alive Mission Community' we also have a 'Mission Community Council' which meets regularly to consider issues which affect all of our parishes, that too has minutes, agendas and discussion papers which need preparation and checking (and I am extremely fortunate to have a fastidious Mission Community Secretary who prepares these things and makes sure - to the best of her ability - that I have a vague idea of what is going on.

Of course I find myself also preparing worship services, some of which need extra preparation and may need booklets compiled/formatted and printed. I have sermons to write, rotas to get ready and expenses which need doing. I find I am constantly fielding enquiries about funerals, memorials in Churchyards, baptisms and weddings over the phone and generally have probably 20 hours or so of admin to be done in most weeks.

As I might have said before (brain is slightly fogged due to cold) this isn't a complaint - but I do have lots of people asking with a genuine interest exactly what it is that I do during the week. Much of what people see is the Sunday worship I lead, and some may know that there are also midweek services, as well as PCC meetings, Deanery Synods and Deanery Chapter meetings, Mission Community meetings. Most realise that funerals and weddings go on during the week too. Not everyone realises that clergy also visit people at home and in hospital, we take Holy Communion to those who are housebound (both long-term, and those who cannot get out due to an injury or who are convalescing), we attend village events when possible, we take school assemblies when invited (usually every other week in most of schools, and i have four schools in the Mission Community), I am also ex-officio a foundation Governor in one of my schools, when asked we will help with school lessons, whether by having children visit or use the Church, or taking part in a lesson on a particular theme. I have a nursing home for the elderly in one of my parishes which I hope to visit on a semi-regular basis. We have meetings with other Church leaders in the area (we have a very good and very active Baptist Church in the village where I live, and very good relations with Methodist and Baptist Churches in other villages too). I write for local village magazines, and for the 'Parishes Paper' which is distributed throughout the five villages of the Mission Community. When folk are being married or having their children baptized in one of our Churches I also visit to prepare them for these events, likewise for each funeral I will visit the family at least twice before the service and when possible after the services as well.

Tot up this, along with a few visits to pubs and clubs, general trying to get around and see folk, and you will get some idea of how my days are filled. The admin can be wearing, and my temptation is to leave it, but then it overwhelms me and gets me stressed as I get to the point where I miss something because it is lost in a pile of paper somewhere.

So being a bit poorly gives me some time to get to grips with a big pile of admin, and i have my Mission Community secretary coming in an hour to help me file, sort and get things slightly more together than they are at present. Looks like being a fun afternoon!

Oh, and I do have some sermons to post on New Kid Deep Stuff, which I will try to get around to later.

Have a joyful, and peaceful, 2009! Not that I don't plan to blog again for the next year, but I though I should end as I began, wishing you a Happy New Year, and thank you to those who left comments with Christmas wishes over the past few weeks.


Sank said...

Sounds like you have your hands full my friend. Best belated wishes for a happy Christmas and wonderful meaningful New Year from your over the pond Parish/Minyan.

When you get afree moment and aren't taking care of everyone around you, or getting the family settled in look over my email of last December.. I had a faith question for you...

Lastly.. I've discovered that my ancestreal roots, from my biological family (I was adopted if you've ever read that post) are from Somerset. Not sure if that's near where you are or not.. But we could be related.

quilly said...

Sorry to hear you are feeling poorly. I offered a prayer for your health. I also offered a prayer for the health of those who have to be around you and your germs!

I was never one who wondered what you did with your time. I have several pastors on my list of personal friends and they are always quite busy with stuff just as you mentioned.

I'd like to tell you to mainatain better balance in your work practices, but like you I tend to put off the least appealing bits of paperwork until I am in crisis mode -- which I pretty much am with the filing at work.

The Old Fart said...

Happy New Year Alastair. All the best for you and your family, may 2009 be the best year yet for your Ministry.

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Melli said...

Ahhhh yes! A ministers life is quite hectic! I know well - I am very close friends with MY Pastor and his wife. He is out the door at 6:00 am and frequently is not back IN the door until 8 or 9:00 pm! It's CRAZY! And even on his day off - he has Friday's and Saturday's SORT OF. He gets calls... a death in a family, or illness, or something. "Things" call him away. The only time he really gets a break is when they go away. And I will say he is very good about planning 3 or 4 LONG weekends away for them each year. If not, I'm sure SHE would lose her mind! LOL! I'm sure your wife feels the same. And I'm sure she appreciated you making that special time for family during the holidays! I am sorry you have caught such a cold. You have my prayers for a quick recovery. (or should I pray that it lingers?) ;)

Nick said...

Alastair... hope you get well soon.

May God bless you in the year to come.


Dr.John said...

And I thought Lutheran paperwork was bad. Now I'm really glad I'm not Anglican. Though every year the Bishops add to the load.We might be Anglican yet.

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David Cooke said...

This post made me shudder. I will pray for an administrator for you and here is a radical thought-maybe the Kingdom of God can advance without filling out a C of E return first! Please may it be so. Grace and peace for 2009. David