Mar 252012

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.


Nov 252010

I’m coming to the end of my second week of holiday cover for my supervisor. Such periods are very useful as times of juggling priorities and different tasks. It’s been a fairly busy couple of weeks, but not for the reasons I had anticipated.

For a start, I’ve only had one funeral come in (that’s the  “shhh!!” bit – there’s still Friday, then the weekend). It’s funerals that cause most disruption, simply because of their unpredictability. And the preparation for them is also an indeterminate task.

But I’ve also discovered another activity that eats up time in unpredictable ways – visiting. A number of the visits I’ve tried to do these last two weeks have come to nothing. A half hour drive to the hospital can often end up with the information that the person has been transferred, or sent home, or is unable to receive visitors. Or, in a couple of instances, the person has been sound asleep. And whilst it is tempting to ‘accidentally’ make a noise to announce your presence, that’s more about your needs than their needs.

It’s not so much that they feel like a waste of time, because it’s just as likely that you’ll find them, awake, in the right place and keen to have a visitor. But they do mean that they throw off the planning and rhythm of a day. The half our or so that you didn’t get visiting can’t really be used. It’s too short a time to get into anything and often isn’t enough time to revise plans for alternative visits.

Or maybe that’s the secret that you eventually work out – how to make best use of these little fragments of time that get ‘left over’.

Whatever the answer, just don’t say anything about only having one funeral to do. I’ll have every other one that comes in for the next month assigned to me to make up for it.

Dec 042009

Sometimes I wonder if this whole process of training and placements and calling is worth it. Don’t get me wrong. I am in no doubt about my call, or my faith, but sometimes it seems that life would be so much simpler (and just as interesting, before anyone suggests otherwise) if you could just get on with life, working, having an income, a social life or even just a more ‘settled’ home life.

And “worth it” implies some kind of future reward, or better times. I’m not so naive to think that life will suddenly become wonderful when I end up in my own parish. That, judging from what I hear, is just the beginning of a whole new set of ‘challenges’.

I guess what I’m saying is that in the intensity of it all (and it is intense), it’s easy to overlook other things, other people. Little things cause a lot of friction, because they get into the apparently smooth-running machine which is the routine of study and preparation. And yet, it should, in a sense, be the other way round. ‘Life’ was there before studies and so study is the intruder, the grit in the life machine.

Sometimes it’s necessary to stop for a bit of maintenance and to gain some perspective. It’s a shame that it’s the ‘grit’ that forces a halt. Much better to have planned maintenance.

Sometimes I do wonder if it’s ‘worth it’. I need to recognise that that is not the advance warning signal, but the emergency stop on the machine.

Time for a maintenance schedule to be put in place.