Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Alternative Career

I was ordained pretty young, by today's standards, although at 29 I felt I had been made to wait too long. I have now been thirty years in this ministry. I have tried to follow the Spirit's leading and to take good advice and this route has meant that I have never been an incumbent (Rector or Vicar) of a parish.

But I have done some interesting jobs which were useful, to some extent successful and bore some fruit.

It is clear now what I should have done. To all intents and purposes I was a bright young thing who could have achieved seniority within the Church of England.

After my first curacy (during which I should have stood for election to Diocesan Synod) I should have either undertaken a short chaplaincy, a five year team vicar post, or served abroad.

I did a long second curacy which might have been called Team Vicar in different circumstances. I should have done a Masters during this period.

After this, eight years in (and trying not to swap diocese too often), I should have done an incumbency with more synodical responsibility, including standing for General Synod, and taking an interest in a specific area of diocesan work. I should have avoided being outspoken, critical or terribly effective the while, leaving any church exactly as I found it with goodwill from the Usual Sunday Attendance. I should have chosen to generate a particular area of theological expertise and never avoided using such services as are authorised by canon. I should have developed liturgical, rather than informal worship, expertise.

Age 42 I would have been ready. It may have taken a while, it may not have happened at all, but that would have increased the likelihood of my getting on a preferment list.

In fact I then worked for a home mission agency and spent ten years helping the Church of England with youth ministry. Then, drained and ill, I wrote for four years whilst working part-time for a parish. A conservative-evangelical by background and training, my theology became more liberal as it became more biblical. I reached the age of 51.

For the last eight years I have been doing missional stuff back in the front-line and at grass roots as minister of a planted church which is now hoping to plant again.

Every post has involved investing time and energy in future leaders and growing the Church of England's talent pool. I can, off the top of my head, name eleven people in ministry and leadership as a result of this work - roughly one every three years.

Think how good I would have been if groomed for future major responsibility? That's right. Not at all. Those who are worth giving further responsibility to have already invested a considerable amount of time and money in their own development.

By the way, I am really happy in my work.


  1. Awesome analysis! This is the dilemma of the latest Talent Development initiative: God's way is not very visible or easy to predict. Look at the twelve He chose!

  2. I shudder to think which son of Jesse this system would have picked, let alone what we'd have missed out on if it had got the recruitment wrong...