Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year, no resolve...

Well, here we are two weeks into the New Year and all I have managed to post is a YouTube vid with a whisky drinking Minister!  I'm glad I didn't make blogging a New Year's Resolution or I would have failed miserably already.  In fact I made no New Year's Resolutions, the reasons for which can be heard here - I would hope that sense of new life, of change would be a part of the daily walk of every Christ-follower.

But I've already said that, so I don't need to repeat myself, not that this normally stops me...

So here we are two weeks of 2011 gone and I wonder how the promise and hope for the New Year is doing!  I find myself in a strange position - both excited and anxious about the coming year.  Excited because I have a sense of anticipation for the coming months, not one I can explain but a sense that something is happening and that it might even be good!  Anxious because these kind of things need vision and hard work, which means some letting go and some seeking God, lots of prayer and a whole load of willingness to do things differently should the need arise.

The odd thing I find about New Year is that I tend to look back with a rather jaundiced eye on each year just gone - to hold on to where I think I failed or was weakest, to remember all that I didn't do rather than all that was good and all that was achieved.  This is odd for me because I am not a naturally negative person - I usually see the good in most things, and in fact strive to see where God is at work for good in even the most difficult and distressing situations.  This was summed up for me when I was a lay chaplain in London and someone described the role of a chaplain as 'keeping the rumour of God alive in the Academy' (or 'Academia' as most of us call it).  I think that the role of any Christian, but particularly of any minister of the Gospel, is to keep the rumour of God alive, to ask the question that we were constantly encouraged to ask during my Theological training 'Where is God in this?'  - and not always to have the answer, but to keep on asking and asking.  It isn't a search to find platitudes or superficial 'meaning' in everything, but to struggle with the reality of a God who is intimately involved in this world he loves so much even when he seems absent.

But with regards to my negative look back over the year, I seem to constantly remind myself of what I didn't do in such a way that it can make me feel demotivated and depressed (not in a serious black cloud kind of way but just not possessing the usual get up and go that keeps me motivated).  In the words of a book I am reading and gaining much from at the moment, I think I suffer from 'Herbertism' - an idealised impression of what a Clergy person should do, which doesn't actually bear much relation to the real world and often serves only to remind us of what we are unable to do.  This malady, as described in the book 'If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Re-thinking Priestly Ministry'
 relates to the impression of Clerical ministry given by such works as 'The Country Parson' by George Herbert - which should be treated more as a vignette, a snapshot, of Herbert's own clerical ambitions and hopes than the 'handbook for ministry' that the Church of England has (pretty much unconsciously) adopted.

So I look forward to a 2011 liberated, at least to a certain degree, from the expectations that I place upon myself which are, quite frankly, unworkable and unliveable.  I also need to work on those unrealistic expectations placed upon those of us in Priestly ministry (again, often unconsciously) by certain parishioners - especially those who have little or no involvement in any form of church!!!!  I hope that as the year unfolds, my thinking on this will too and that I will find something to write as time goes on.  For now, here's last week's Thought For The Week...