I had an enjoyable session yesterday morning speaking with a group of Mums, Morning Break, some church members, some fringe at Holy Trinity church. I did my usual trick of doing a brief biography and background and then asking if there were any questions people had always wanted to ask a vicar. Questions were interesting. They varied from the welcoming of homosexuals, to the fixing of Easter; what is a the point of a christening to why do you wear a dog collar. A lively conversation ensued.
During the course of the final question I was asked about my priorities. Would I, for instance, prioritise her ahead of the church if I heard my sister needed me? The background to this question was a clergy relative who, it was felt, put church before family.
It is a complex issue and I explained a bit about seeing more of my children growing up than most fathers do. But when the crunch comes I agreed that I'd get away from town to see my family in an emergency at the first available opportunity, even if it meant leaving a Sunday service to someone else (and members of my church present there agreed they'd support me in that decision).
It led into a discussion about how our routines change over the years. I explained that once upon our time I tried to avoid appointments between 4 and 7 p.m. to be there for family, meals, home from school time, baths and bed. Now, with my boys having left home and my wife getting home from work about 7 - 7.30 each night, I do a lot of early evening work (visits between 5 and 7 p.m.) so as to have a meal on the table for Liz when she gets in. Sorry fellers. There was a gasp. I tried a quick retraction, 'I mean I try to be, so I can show Liz what needs cleaning. I beat her for all the wrong things she has done...' Too late. Husbands, partners and boyfriends of Morning Break - I just raised the bar. I'll try not to mention the ironing and washing. Oops. Sorry.