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Back to Work! Hurrah! 19 July 2016

Posted by Dr Moose in Chaplaincy, Faith, Life, Time, University.
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It’s the Tuesday evening of my first week back after sabbatical. It’s hot enough to melt just about anything without the application of a blow torch. I’ve had a full day and a cold shower… and I couldn’t be happier. A goodly number of years ago I remember the feeling of dread I had when the holiday ended and I needed to go back to work, or more specifically, the parish. How unlike returning from sabbatical! I must admit that taking the sabbatical was one of the rare strategic moves of my ministry. Nothing was at breaking point. I didn’t need an escape, nor an excuse to consider a change. The opportunity was there and it made good sense to take it. (And between the recommendation to apply for one and the actual doing of it I did find myself in the midst of much unwanted and institutionally-mandated change, not to my role as such but impacting those around me and demanding a response, which was in itself stressful and draining). In time I should be able to pull the threads of the sabbatical together and assess it’s value more fully, but I suspect that it’s too soon as yet.

Yesterday, my first official day back, was like the sensation of putting on that old, comfy sweatshirt that just fits, as a result of long use. I might not have noticed yet of course, but nothing  had changed too much, everything that mattered was still where I left it, and it felt like I’d been away no time at all, rather than three months. The fact that I was up writing my address for today’s service until gone 11pm made no difference. (Like it or not it was the first proper chance I had to do it, I didn’t begrudge it, and, anyway, I enjoyed it).

Today was a change of gear, from the gentle return to a somewhat sleepy campus to the busy engagement of the first day of graduations. For the first time in recent years proceedings opened with a service of Thanksgiving in the town’s ‘civic’ church. The numbers were lower than I’d have liked, but perfectly respectable, especially for such a new event. I don’t really do civic religion, but I have a respected role to play, and have just about learned to recognise in myself the ‘professional’ competence that others see. Just as well really, what with the University Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, the Lord Lieutenant, Governors, Staff, the Mayor (with guide dog) and Uncle Tom Cobley and all! (If you’re really unlucky I might even post the address. No, not the postal one!) It seemed well-received enough and looks as if it may become a fixture.

Three hymns, two readings, one address and one set of prayers later it was time to do a quick change in the vestry from clerical to academic dress and process off to the theatre where graduations are held, viewing the proceedings from the stage with the other be-robed members of staff, mixing with guests over a pleasant lunch and generally being around, being seen and being available to all and sundry. (As well as shedding layers between the three ceremonies and downing as much water and orange juice as I could find…)

Tomorrow, it’s back to graduations again. And Thursday. And Friday. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, not just this week, but the whole thing. There may come a day I lose the spark and feel that it’s time to move on. There may come a day when either of the two sponsoring bodies that keep me there, the diocese and the university, decide to pull the plug. Until then though I’m a lucky (or maybe blest) man. A square peg in a square hole, a man in the right place.

I’m back, and I’m loving it!

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