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Change of Pace 29 October 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Chaplaincy, Church, Faith, Life, Ponderings.
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It is half term in the Chaplainage.

A simple statement that is instantly comprehensible, even if incorrect or misleading in detail. As schools no longer officially teach three terms split into to two halves to make six it cannot be half-term (no matter what common usage decrees). Likewise the University doesn’t have half terms, nor even an official Reading Week, although you can be sure that some lecturers will have made arrangements to see their families this week. And, of course, there is no Chaplainage. The word does not exist, even if it should, and since the house is not provided for services rendered in the manner of a Vicarage, it’s simply the house the Chaplain (and the bank) own.

It is not just half term though, it is the week after the clocks go back, and the conjunction is a most blessed one. The ladies of the household no longer have to get to bed in good time to be ready for the rigours of the morrow (GLW included, as she works in a school now). We can stay up late wasting our substance on riotous living (all right, Minecraft on the PS3, but you know what I mean) free from thoughts of the consequences the following morn (and wake in daylight!)

And so, here I sit, at 8am on a Wednesday morning, with one daughter awake and mercifully silent (LMP having developed the habit of a most annoying half-whistle without being aware of it) and wife and t’other daughter asleep. It’s the sort of morning where I would have crept down to the office in the days when we lived in the Vicarage. That room, cold, messy, slightly damp and without a physical phone line, was one of the presumed and now lamented beauties of living in a church property. A place where I could step in, shut the door, and be, think, pray and write, knowing that distraction was physically removed and work presumed by the rest of the household, even when I wasn’t. I miss it terribly. In the eighteen months or so of being a home-owner it is one of the key things that I, and we, miss. There are others, of course: the dining room, which we turned into the little lounge, where children could play, watch TV and cause vast amounts of mess, knowing that the mess, and the noise, could be isolated and subjected to infrequent search and destroy missions, free from visitors’ sight; both the generous porch and downstairs hall, allowing the unsightly dumping of stuff and still unimpeded access; and most importantly from the GLW’s perspective, the utility room, where washing, drying and ironing could be carried out, allowing the kitchen to be a kitchen, and not the core domestic service area.

We were, and nearly all parochial clergy are, immensely privileged, and I’m fully aware of, and grateful for, it. The expectations of a national standard of property to allow one’s life and work is on the whole, a good thing, at least at a domestic level. The fact that utility bills may be somewhat higher than comfortable, or the vicarage might, in certain parishes be the only four-bedroomed house, are different difficulties.

But why these ruminations in the first place? It’s certainly not an attempt at evoking pity from my readership, as I’m very well aware that even here in the Chaplainage, with all the flaws we see so clearly after eighteen months, we are in a far better position that most people in this country, let alone much of the world. (It doesn’t change the thinking that maybe we could have done better, or chosen differently, but that’s just human nature). At one level I’m aware that I intended to blog more on what might be labelled as ‘life changes’ and haven’t, but there’s far more than that. As I enter the third year of full-time university chaplaincy I need to take stock, to look, pray and ponder what I’m doing. To assess my effectiveness, contentment, opportunities and development, even my disaffections or complacency. Yesterday I had what amounts to my annual informal lunch with Bishop John, the suffragan (junior) bishop who is responsible, among other things, for chaplains. Once again we shared a pleasant pub lunch, questions about my welfare, perceptions and hopes, and once again I was reminded of the humanity and personality of this particular bishop… and to detail any more would be most unprofessional of me, so I won’t.

Today, arguably more importantly, I have my Ministry Development Review, a sort of three-yearly Ministry MOT with a member of the senior staff, in this case the Archdeacon, digging rather more into some of the things I chatted to the bishop about. How do I see my calling? What are the best bits, and the worst? How am I looking after myself? What personal development needs can I highlight? Where do I see myself in one, five, ten years, etc etc? I’m very aware that although I should, and do, ponder these things, very often they are internalised and personalised, and for the best long-term benefit they need to see the light of day and be shared with others. As ministers we are called to work together in the daily realisation of God’s kingdom. The reality is that so often we work apart, in parallel, visible to a greater or lesser degree in our own spaces, be they parishes or chaplaincies, and, regrettably, sometimes against each other, by accident, oversight or even design, especially with regard to ecclesiologies and theologies that we hold dear and in good conscience, despite the opinions of others into how impossible they are or might be. (These, of course, are so often the ‘dirty linen’ that the media and public rejoice in seeing, omitting so much of the daily, life-affirming and life-changing activities of fallible, frail and faithful people).

One item I do want to raise is the possibility of a sabbatical, a three month, paid, study leave that is available to all clergy after a certain term of service, usually 7 to 10 years, subject to various conditions. As I was ordained in 2000 and am in my eighth year in this particular diocese I feel it’s time I looked into it, prompted by others ordained around the same time or later than I was, as well as an unexpected email on the topic as I was approaching what turned out to be the end of my time in parish and my metamorphosis into full-time chaplaincy. (And, yes, I do feel as if I’ve changed from larva to dragonfly in the process somehow…) I suspect it won’t be a possibility until summer 2016, but ideas are taking shape, soundings being taken and positive noises being made in return, so we shall have to see. There might be an unintended benefit along the way too. As a self-identified tactician, good at the short term, day to day action and response but rather poorer at strategic vision, being too often paralysed by myriad opportunities and so avoiding the issues altogether, having a real, but somewhat distant deadline with real and tangible consequences (rather than simply desired, but uncertain, outcomes, so typical of the risk-taking required for ministry) is a good thing. It’s not as if I haven’t managed to obtain four degrees in education after all!

This post is winding down now, as noise and activity level of the family ramps up. This change of pace, half term, with the providential connection of rest, clock change, reflection and the arrival of new reading material (the epic Guide to Glorantha, which deserves a blog entry all of its own) is most definitely a Good Thing. I trust that similarly Good Things will cross the paths of you, my readers!



1. faithhopechocolate - 29 October 2014

What would you study in your sabbatical?

Dr Moose - 30 October 2014

As a fan of Role-Playing Games (the good old-fashioned pen, paper and polyhedral dice variety, not the computer type) I attend conventions, write and play (infrequently). At cons I don’t hide who I am and what I do, and instead have a long-running seminar series on Spirituality and Role-Playing Games and semi-recognised position as Chaplain to the con (including baptising a toddler, in a German castle, during one of the conventions). I’d want to find some way of engaging more academically with the environment/proposition, such as the meaning and role of Chaplaincy in such a non-conventional (bad pun) community, an engagement with the theology (or theologies) of such imaginary worlds as Glorantha or something like that. The intended result would ideally be some sort of published book, like the Grove Booklets, or at least a serious written piece. After meeting both +John and the archdeacon this week in the context of informal review it looks like this could well be a goer.

faithhopechocolate - 31 October 2014

That sounds brilliant.

2. Change & Decay? | Life, Faith and Role-Playing Games - 10 February 2015

[…] and faith for a very long time which is a very good reason to get off my backside and organise that sabbatical. (Thought: Would a heavy metal band taking a break from music be having a Black […]

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