Daft:9

I could go on and list more and more of the daft things that have been said to me as a minister; there have been many. They are dwarfed only by the daft things I have said to others. Once a minister, a friend of a friend, was asked about what he was looking forward to about leaving a particular church. He said something like ‘I will no longer have to walk down the High Street and bump into people that I have let down’.

I can think of innumerable things I have said, many from years back, that still make me cringe. The worse of those are not ordinary things we say where we think ‘I know I shouldn’t have said that’ , but where I have done what I have criticised others for in this series: had some kind of internal assumption that because I am ordained or experienced (over 13 years now doncha know) I have a special right to be directive and an expert. The type of speech that comes from someone who (coughs and assumes pastorally caring voice and patronising smile) feels that, if they are not yet an expert, has some kind of right to tell/preach to others about what they ‘should do’. I still think of specific instances where people came looking for a word of Grace, some stillness, some understanding or just that someone would hear their questions and I blew it big style and talked down to them.

I think I am learning not to do that, but I still lapse; mostly with my family and oh, I have a blog…..

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:8

(I just want to stare and stare at this all day….)

I never met this minister, in fact I cannot now remember his name.

When I first started, someone gave me a booklet that a local church had produced to celebrate its 75th anniversary. I like getting stuff like this: understanding the past is often a way to understanding the present and the future.

In the booklet were short stories of old ministers. I read them with interest; would this help me in my future? One phrase hit me from this particular minister; after describing how he and his wife routinely ran off  x hundred copies of the notices every Friday night (!) he wrote something like ‘whilst still having time for the occasional expidition into Snowdonia.’

Even when I read that over 12 years ago, something inside of me went ‘This is wrong; so wrong’. I felt: you live on the edge of one of the most glorious areas in Britain and you only made ‘occasional excursions’ into it? I also thought: why do you have to make it sound so ‘guilty’ as in- ok I worked and worked and worked for the church and occasionally, naughty me, I went out and enjoyed myself- but don’t worry, it was only ‘occasional’.

I have no idea whether that person who wrote those words is alive or dead and I am not so much making a point of his words more the style of life they imply. A style of life that was practically commended to me as normal: work all the hours God sends, your wife will sort everything else out, never relax and if you are going to have time out, don’t talk about it in case it upsets people that you are not working.

Maybe I am being too harsh, but that was the daftness that I picked up and which made it harder to rebel or feel I was ‘naughty’ if I did…

Having held onto this booklet for years I threw it away recently when I was having a clear out. Rereading those mini biographies and the homogeneity of them gave me a feeling of ‘no; this is the past, it can no longer provide a pattern to my present’….

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:7

(I was not watching this. I never watch this)

I hadn’t been in full time ministry for long- perhaps it was the first year or so. I had been working in my study before lunch. I popped downstairs and flicked the TV on and there was one of those awful American chat shows on; the ones that are bought to fill a dead time in the schedules.

Someone was talking about the power of forgiveness, to which the host was responding with the appropriate sympathetic nodding of her immaculately coiffeured and made up head. I flicked across to the other channel to find two warring parties on another chat show saying that they could not forgive one another. Forgiveness is complex and a hard and fraught road: it is not easy, yet I was struck by this strange juxtaposition. I flicked back and forth and this strange contrast continued. I related this to a congregation and made some observations about seeing some strange parable of Grace being enacted before my eyes.

A few weeks later, I had a meeting with my boss (not God; what in Methodism we call ‘the Superintendent Minister’. They are not God, although occasionally of some the old joke could be used about what is the different between the two: one just thinks they are God…) and one of the first comments was that someone in the congregation had heard this being said and had come to him and said ‘What is he doing watching TV in the middle of the day?’

I was new: I did not have the presence of mind to say ‘Hmmm… and that action in itself is a strange parable of grace, is it not?’

Don’t get me wrong: the church is a fantastic place and I have experienced more Grace and understanding than anywhere else: it is an incredible place. I have also experienced, albeit in a tiny minority, moments of ungrace and sheer daftness (I still wonder what level of power games were going on in that boss at that moment and whether I would have been savvy enough in a similar situation to tell the complainer not to be so daft and just not repeat the allegation). Getting more experience is learning to listen with Grace to criticism: much of it is helpful and loving.

Of course, the Methodist system for extending ministers appointments can  (and regrettably does in some occasions) give a tiny minority a ‘bully pulpit’ for this kind of daftness. But that, as they say, is another story…..

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:6

It was a while ago now. I was thinking of studying for another degree (I now have three. When I am talking to teenagers I often say ‘Work hard and study- just like me. I have three degrees and am now in a highly paid job with prospects…erm…on second thoughts…forget what I said’); at that time I didn’t go ahead, but I did a few years later.

‘Of course, ministers really shouldn’t study. I know about xxvyz- he studied for a day a week and had an extra day off.’ I think the conversation then went on as to how that person was neglecting ‘the work’, with the clear implication that any kind of study was something that belonged in college. I don’t know: I stopped listening.

I know and I knew, that in order to keep going it was neccesary to draw from deep wells. I also knew that the unreflected life was not worth living. I also remembered that the ordination service seemed to imply a committment to study alongside prayer, preaching etc etc.

The work I do is ever present: it does not go away and sometimes it threatens to engulf. Perhaps sometimes the greatest gift we have to offer is not just to work harder and harder in order to be a ‘busy minister’ (yuk!), but rather to encourage a depth and reflection in a world that increasingly regards that as non productive. Study is a part of that.

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:5

I met him when I was training.

A little known thing about vicar training: you may have had a wide ranging career, carried huge responsibility or had incredible life experiences before you got to this point. That didn’t seem to stop some people treating you as though you were fresh out of school and needed talking down to. This person I met seemed to fit that mould.

He had been a Methodist Minister and now he was in another denomination.

‘Of course the wife must be active in the parish’ (the word ‘parish’ rather gives it away…) he intoned. He then went on to support that argument with more ‘wisdom’ culled from the same source that brooked little argument or nuance. He might have said ‘your’, instead of ‘the’ but by this time I had stopped listening.

The partner of anyone who is ordained may well be active in the parish, conversely they may not be…. but even then I thought ‘Surely it is down to their own gifts and inclination and not what they ‘must’ do?’ You pay for one person- please don’t have any expectation of an additional, unpaid curate/layworker- value them for who they are.

Fortunately, I got better advice from another Minister who I was placed with. His wife had been asked by a Methodist invitation committee what she did (even typing that statement makes me say ‘whaaaat?’ as in ‘what century were these people in?‘) and she replies ‘I sleep with the minister’.

A few years later, I was in another part of the country and someone told me about a Methodist minister that they had had who only stayed a short while. I worked out it was the same guy who had spoken down to me in training. ‘He left us as he couldn’t get on with us: he wanted his own way and wouldn’t ever listen’……I wasn’t suprised….

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:4

(I am your minister but I just want to be your wikkle fwend…)

So there was this debate at the theological cemetary where I trained (1996-1999). It reared it’s head from time to time and I still hear it from older ministers. This is the summary:-

‘You cannot/should not make friends among your congregations.’

Ok: I will concede the point that if you should not always be making a bee line for the same people in a congregation just because you get on well with them. A church then becomes like a school playground with it’s cliques and invisible people. It can also make hard decisions harder- but we call that ‘life’: wake up and smell the coffee.

But the advice as such was complete and utter baloney (I could say ‘crap’ but you must know that as a minister, I never use any bad language…). There is a school of thought, thankfully dying, that somehow when you wear a dog collar it is your job, nay duty, to lose your humanity….. friendship would just show that you had an element of normality. You cannot be everyones friend: some will like you and some won’t. Some, indeed, may be jealous that you don’t ‘click’ and others do…. but that can happen anywhere.

But to avoid friendship? It seems like you would be razor blading off part of your humanity and be this dispassionate creature called ‘The Minister’…..life and humanity is all about relationships…. Daft, plain daft….

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:3

(Just perfect: doing The Work unsullied by any humanity that may distract us…)

This person, who was married to a minister, came up to me after a meeting and said ‘Of course, I don’t think that we should have younger ministers with children- they have so much less time for the work.’

At the time we had no children and were not expecting any, but even then, all that was within me wanted to say ‘What a completely stupid remark’. Being new and an utterly nice person I said nothing (irony intended).

Leaving aside the issues of how is anyone going to see what God is like unless a diverse bunch of people represent the church and growing children expose you to more people than perhaps at any time of your life, there is the veneration of ‘the work’. ‘The work’: something that never stops and must be satisfied- to be ‘good’ you must never be idle. You have to laugh and welcome a 60 + hour week and as many unsocial hours as you can manage. To stop and be a good parent, cousin, son/daughter or friend must not happen- that has to be fitted in the gaps (of which a good minister has few).

As daft comments go…words fail me….

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:2

(This is not me by the way)

I was watching cricket: always a good time. I was watching Lancashire at an outground and Muttiah Muralitharan was bowling- something that made a good time, an excellent time. I was sat with a few friends who had finished college or had just started in full time paid ministry. There was one among us who was experienced: until this moment, I had never met him.

He took one look at me and said ‘You know: once you go into circuit (Methodist jargon- it basically means once you start), people in the churches will have difficulty talking to you because of that earring.’

This taught me that when you feel you have more experience than the person you are addressing; offer advice gracefully and humbly and usually only if it is asked for. Try never to be pompous and overbearing.

However this has been one of the daftest pieces of advice offered to me. Yes: don’t attract attention to yourself unneccesarily is good advice. But hide who you are/appear monochrome is poor advice; I have found incredibly graceful and understanding people within the Christian community. Earrings/piercings/smart suits/ties etc are unimportant compared to character. If anything, the last 13 years have shown me that a good deal more people spoke to me because of a piece of metal.

Still I did get something good from that day, apart from being with friends; the sight of perhaps the best spinner the world has known…

Every Tuesday I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

Daft:1

So here is the idea: every Tuesday for the next few Tuesdays, I am going to post somethings that people have said to me as a minister that are just plain daft. The only provisos:-

1: The person who said it should have known better- ie they are ordained or have been active in the church for ages.

2: Nothing that I will feature has been said by anyone where I currently live or serve.

3: I am reasonably tolerant (unless you misfile my cds) of most things, but these things once got under my skin.

I spent all of Saturday at a meeting. We call them Synods. In my dark days I think that we only have them as we have no adequate doctrine of purgatory.

They are large meetings, twice yearly, that all ministers are required to be at as well as various other lay representatives. 

When I first started going to when I lived in another part of the country. It was a Saturday- I had no other function apart from being there. So I turned up dressed normally (I have blogged before on ministers who feel the need to always wear a clerical collar: no problem when you are out and about and visible in hospitals, the community etc)- I still do; aside from what it says to constantly turn up dressed like a class apart in a denomination that believes in ‘the priesthood of all believers’, clerical shirts are generally poorly made and you can’t get comfortable in a hot room.

After I had been, a prominent member of that meeting accosted me and said- and the words are still engraved in my brain: ‘Why weren’t you in a dog collar, I like to see my ministers in a dog collar?’

There were a whole host of things that riled me in that comment, not least the idea that someone thinks that they ‘own’ (‘my’) someone in a way that you wouldn’t expect to own anyone in any other occupation. Underneath I caught a hint that someone was only really comfortable if the minister  was not really themselves but only if they were playing a role; for they already knew me. For me, it is enough that someone is there- they are valued whoever and however they are.

Now it doesn’t rile me, it is something that I have just come to see as plain daft.