If it takes one man twenty-five minutes to chew a ham, how long will it take three men to chew a hammer?
Do you remember the days when maths questions seemed to be like that? An endless supply of leaky baths being filled and emptied at the same time and you had to guess (sorry, that's calculate) how long before they overflowed. As you grew older you realised that the question begged was not, 'How long before I can have a bath?' but, 'Have I paid my household insurance premium?' As you got older still you understood that the big vision, of a properly functioning household, didn't preclude the possibility of domestic appliances occasionally malfunctioning. In your sage-like dotage you concluded that it was better to enjoy the occasional bath than worry about when they were going to take place.
Yesterday, as I tried to work round a number of 'I wouldn't have started from here' moments, I reminded myself once again that progress in parish ministry is about having a focus firmly in your head and trying as best you can to line up what is actually happening with that vision. So at Trendlewood our all-age services are, without a doubt, improving but it doesn't necessarily mean that every one is better than the last one. The bath leaks.
I stand firm to a vision of a growing, welcoming all-age Christian community whilst aware that people will go on holiday without changing their rota, photographers from the local paper will want to see the vicar tied up by his youth group once more for posterity when he would rather chat to newcomers and guest preachers at the only service of the day I wasn't down to attend will cancel at the last minute. The busy (make that very busy) Monday I carefully scheduled for the day after a quiet Sunday becomes a Monday that needs to begin with a 'Lord help me make it through' prayer.
Titanic planning is great. It plans for everything except reality. Reality becomes something that happens while you are planning something else. Deckchairs. Icebergs.
So me and the others at the meetings will get through today with good food, coffee and prayers as long as we remember the big vision, think about the details but hang light to them and stay aware that nothing ever goes to plan.
Oh yes. And the opening question. It's a bit of a catch but it all depends if the men are professionals or hammer chewers. Good morning.