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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 11 January 2010

Come fly with me ...

Ok I admit it, Facebook has seriously dented my blogging energies and time - it's only been sermons really recently, sorry. That's been messed up further by the fact that they are now written on a pc with no internet access.

This blog began (and starting a sentence with those words does not imply I am going to stop blogging!) as a reflective tool for my clergy leadership programme notes. If I'm honest it was also a means of getting things off my chest with my own moderation system in place - a little easier on the blood pressure than some discussion forums can be!

I could have done with my leadership programme notes (and Ruth's Arrow folder) in my back pocket a fair few times recently. This has been our fourth Christmas in the benefice - as many as we've ever had in a parish. It (along with some unfortunate and as yet not completely resolved conflicts) got me thinking back to when I was a curate.

I used to get frustrated that my boss wouldn't always want to go with the great new ideas I was coming up with (OK not just me others too). Now I know that it was because he knew he would get it in the neck from the elements of the congregation who make it their business to keep the church the same as it has always been. As curates together on what was then known daintily as potty training we would wonder what it was that turned keen trendy curates into cautious, stressed out vicars. Now I realise it isn't just a matter of the passing of the years, it's to do with where the buck stops. With a curate, it rarely stops at your desk, as incumbent it always does (even if in practice it doesn't, as with youth work)

What this is coming from inside me I guess is the paradox of collaborative ministry; shared leadership, WOOHOO, everyone loves it, but when things get difficult, it's "What are you going to do about it, you're the vicar ...". This works the other way too - much as I love collaborating, there are times when I feel like knocking heads together and shouting "I'm in charge here!" Not sure I'd ever actually say that though as there are elements who would like me to because they think the vicar should do everything! D'oh!
I understand authority in priestly leadership to be conferred by God via the bishop. It doesn't have to be earned. In the same way, respect for that authority, which some might say needs to be earned, I feel ought also to be a given. Not that the vicar is always right or deserves all the perks he or she can get in terms of freebies and the like, but that congregations and communities ought to remember that their vicar was prayerfully chosen and appointed to serve them; he/she is not a volunteer, neither in the sense of doing this for free (with every respect to NSMs out there) nor in the sense of just stepping forward out of guilt or an excess of free time.

When this understanding collides with other understandings of leadership, that's when you can get the kind of plane crash that Sam was talking about.


  1. Sorry, been there. It is hard balancing energy and kindness.

  2. @ Peter Sorry mate, I reserve the right to be the only one who rants here; if you want to rant feel free to do so at GW
    @ Caroline thanks. Most people still love me I think, but ask me again after pcc on Thursday!

  3. OK, Tim, will post my balanced (?) comments about the failings of the C of E elsewhere.

  4. Thanks for these reflections Tim, I echo Caroline.....freebies though what are they? And of course you're not expecting people to love you are you? Ruth and the children do that!

  5. thanks Clare
    I guess I don't always expect love but it is nice to be in a place here where that love and patience is forthcoming ...

  6. I've only just come across your blog (following a recent post by Peter Kirk (http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/?p=1526) and I would like to thank you for allowing us some insight into your thought processes. It was very courageous of you and I pray that, as you face this difficult situation, your local ministry team, Rural Dean and Area Bishop will be supportive of you.

  7. plane crash duly averted, black box recorder preserved and reprogrammed for future use.


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