Friday, September 21, 2018

But is it really work?

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the weirdness of clergy work. Find it here. It is based on a number of conversations with my friend and previous training colleague, Bob Clucas. The early Apple spell-checker suggested he was Reboot Clichés - I wish that had stuck. As with many of these ideas, which I usually wrote down but he also initiated, neither of us remembers, or cares, who deserves the most credit. So we tend to share it.

I have read a few posts on social media recently from new clergy trying to make sense of activities such as doing the laundry or cleaning on a day off and what to do when the mind wanders, during such activities, to work-related matters.

Firstly, well done for spotting it. And now to the idea. It is the difference between real and apparent work. And this, if my previous experience is anything to go by, will transform the lives of about 20% of the people who read it, whilst the rest will say 'That's crazy.' To the 80% I say, please allow the 20% to be crazy but happy. What follows ain't illegal. Here we go:

There will be things you do that come under the heading 'duties of office' (clergy are office-holders, not employees) which you enjoy and would do anyway, paid or not. For some this will be hanging around in coffee shops or going to parties; for others writing improving articles in the church press and for still others fixing guttering. These are work, apparently, but don't feel like it to you.

Then there will be things you do in your down-time or on your rest-day that you would rather pay someone else to do. For some this will be gardening; for others ironing, washing or shopping. These are leisure, apparently, but don't feel like it to you.

The trick, if trick it can be called, is to recall that clergy do not have to avoid domestic chores every day they are on duty. If ironing is work for you and it has to be done, do it on any day except your rest day. Glebe management is part of your responsibility so it is OK to do gardening whilst on duty. In fact it is required as part of your duties.

If you cram all the leisure activities that feel like work into your day off you won't feel like you've had one. If you trade them for one or two bits of your duties that don't feel like work you will.

To summarise, try and make sure your duty days are a mix of real work and real leisure, or apparent work and apparent leisure. And fill your days off with real leisure and, if necessary, apparent work.

I once shared this with a group of clergy who were what is known as 'training incumbents' (TIs). One guy, who I know for a fact had ruined the lives of several curates, responded, as if it were the last word on the matter. 'Well that wouldn't work for me.' He seemed quite shocked when I suggested that I was not asking it to work for him but that it might be an option he shared with his curate in case it was helpful for them. At this very idea, sharing something he didn't personally find helpful, he gave the room a look which encompassed all the ranges of amazement in the known universe. Teaching the doing of things exactly the way he had done them for thirty years wasn't the only thing that worked? Really?

If you were his curate I doubt he told you this. Sorry if it's late.

Same time next week?

1 comment:

Simon Nicholls said...

Quite right. And if the curate was once a Reader heavily involved in their parish pre-ordination it takes time to adjust to the idea that what they used to do for free is now part of your duties of office. Sound advice.