One month in – thoughts so far

I still can’t quite decide which direction to take my blogging thoughts. But as this blog has been about thoughts and reflections on the challenges, events, and learning ‘moments’ of getting to this place, I suppose it makes sense to continue in similar vein. After all, getting to ‘this place’ was never an end in itself, but merely the place where the next part of the path opened up before me.

Anyway, here are some initial, somewhat random, thoughts on the first few weeks.

Perhaps the dominant thought at the moment is that I wish I had paid a bit more attention to certain things during placements or conferences. Not so much that I have come across things that are unexpected.It’s just that you hit that point of having to do them yourself and suddenly detail matters. You can remember in vague terms, or even in fairly clear terms, what a particular activity entailed. But what about the detail? What about the nitty-gritty of procedure? And does it actually matter here, or is it just a reflection of past practice? This is, in no way, a reflection on my supervisors or on the training, but simply a matter-of-fact note on my ability (or lack of) to retain ‘detail’ information.

Another passing thought concerns making things up on the hoof, as it were. I don’t mean inventing stuff, but I mean working out how and why you might want to do a particular thing. For example, I’ve now had two wedding arrangements to sort through and I’ve never given much thought previously to what I would like done, the specific words to use, or the precise order of things. But as I was going through options with folks, I realised that I would prefer a certain order to things because it makes more liturgical sense to me to do things in a particular order, or use particular words, or perform particular actions. And, of course, how do you respond to the request that begins, “We were thinking we’d quite like to…”? Because you can be pretty sure that it’s not something you’d thought of, and it will almost certainly push against that notional boundary you have. And it’s the, “we’d quite like…” that means that an awful lot of pre-planning can only take you so far. Unless, of course, you’re the sort of person who will dictate how it will be done. But that’s not me. Theology is much more fun than that.

I would dearly love to have a foolproof method of remembering names, and the faces they are attached to.

Bizarrely, I still actually enjoy doing funerals. There is no better sense of satisfaction than the one you get when someone says, “You summed them up just spot on.” It means I’ve listened and cared enough to get it right. And my hope, and prayer, is that they’ve sensed that ‘the church’ cares enough to want to do that.

Balancing the ‘squeeze it all in’ and ‘save it for another time’ in sermon-writing is still a challenge. Especially at the start when I’d like people to get a grasp of where I’m coming from. But settling in to the necessary time constraints of preaching in two places on a Sunday morning is a work in progress, and one where, I think progress is being made. Having only 50-55 minutes or so to squeeze a service into (if I want to spend any time with people afterwards) really focuses the mind.

I really ought to plan ahead a bit more. Diary events seem to hit the radar sooner than anticipated. I guess that’s just a matter of getting into routines and knowing what the ‘shape’ of any given period actually is.

Mark out time in the diary for family and leisure. We were told this so many times in conferences and by supervisors, yet it’s often the first thing that slips. Reminder to self – don’t let it!

That’s probably enough to be going on with. As always there are things that are not really appropriate to comment upon; at least not while they are still fresh. And there are plenty of things that have cropped up, been dealt with, and have passed by with barely a chance to register because the next thing has come in.



One response to “One month in – thoughts so far”

  1. Oh my goodness John. You are *soooo* not alone in all that you say. I can identify with most if not all of the above issues – the detail of things shared at conferences, or by placement supervisors, the working out your policy as circumstances arise, the remembering of names/faces (for sure!).

    I, too, appreciate that sense that somehow, even/especially when you don’t know well or have never even met someone, you are able to ‘sum them up’ (in some sense) in a funeral (paradoxically as I start to get to know people, my own knowledge starts to ‘get in the way’ during the pre-funeral visit). Although I always tell people ‘this is not the “final word” but just the beginning of the remembering that they will do as a family over the days and weeks to come.

    Time constraints of 2 services, diary planning, and time off & with family – yes all are issues for me (mind you that’s a character flaw on my part more than anything else…).

    And I think you’ve truly summed up the large part of ministry with your last sentence!

    I hope this is by way of encouragement – I’m sure you will find things easier over time (e.g. the names thing has got better – usually I quietly ask one of the elders who has been in the village for years, ‘what’s that person’s name?’). But I suspect one of your congregations is somewhat bigger than either of mine…

    Keep on keeping on – and keep enjoying it!

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