Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sorry but I don't do that

As a bit of a follow on from my previous post on work-life balance I want to explore what it is you don't do.

'On Holy Tuesday the Diocese gathers to worship together and to bless the Oils which will be used for baptisms, the anointing of the sick, for confirmations and ordinations in the coming year.'

But to begin at the beginning...

In Holy Week 1985, my first as a curate, I had a crisis of confidence. I know, I know. My entire readership experiences corporate shock. It hasn't happened since.

I found myself doing such a lot of things I didn't want to do that I had no time to do the things I did. Specifically I was taking communion to so many old ladies that I did not get to give the youth group's Holy Week sufficient planning time.  I wondered if I had made a big mistake and would have been a more effective youth pastor (what I felt called to do at that time) if I had not been ordained.

On Good Friday I sat in church in the silences between three addresses I was giving in an hour and said, 'OK Lord. You can have another year.' Ever since then this has become a habit. I am a minister for life but I serve in one year chunks.

Today the clergy of Bath and Wells Diocese gather at Wells Cathedral for a Chrism Service. In addition to the blessing of the oils used in ministry it is deemed a time to encourage busy clergy to take some time for their own devotions in this special week. I won't be there. Here is a list of reasons:

1. My decision to serve for one more year is done in peace and private. I do not make good decisions about my personal life through group think.

2. I do not use oil in ministry very much and, when I do, I do not feel it makes it any more effective if it has been episcopally blessed. I value my bishops' functionality more than their ontology.

(By the way, since many cancer sufferers come to faith as they realise their life is ending, is this the oncological argument for the existence of God? That may be the most niche theological joke ever.)

3. I do not like or enjoy cathedral style worship. The sort of musical worship I enjoy would not gather a crowd, leaving me with the problem of corporate worship either being a crowd of people doing things I dislike or a crowd of people hating what we are doing and wanting it to stop. (Even my imaginary friends gang up on me.) My ordination kick-started this as everyone except me spoke of how powerful it had been to wear a dog collar for the first time and walk down the aisle singing 'The Church's One Foundation.' I didn't voice my opinion which was to do with a guitar, four chords and the truth - my ordination scored 1 out of 3. Also, I have inflated the number of chords country and western songs require by a third.

4. I am refreshed by silence, space and isolation. That which has been designed to encourage and equip me would have the exact opposite effect and I would need time to recover.

Now don't get me wrong. I understand the line about the corporate church that we should not deprive others of our gifts and presence. I think I have been to enough voluntary occasions to have earned my exeat.

Maybe one year I will go. I don't know. But just at the moment, where every direction I look in my life (work and personal) I see things that need fixing, I do not wish to make anything harder.

Enjoy the service fellow clergy. I'll put a link to this on Twitter but the wifi in the cathedral is disappointing so you may have to read it afterwards.

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