The Church of England recently published “The Vicar’s guide” as a semi-official guidebook for clergy, especially those just starting out as an incumbent (like me). Lots of good stuff in it, some things more questionable, like this comment: “If your theology qualification is over five years old, it’s outdated” – which suggests that the theological developments of the last five years are more important than those of the previous two thousand. Not sure I buy that.
But this was interesting: “Francis Dewar identifies three vocations which, he maintains, can often become confused. Our primary vocation is to know God, it is the call to basic Christian discipleship. Our second vocation is to become the person we have been created to be; celebrating, developing and using that combination of gifts and experience that is uniquely ours and growing into maturity of personhood in Christ. The third vocation is to particular, recognised and authorised ministries in the Church or the world; this includes, of course, the vocation to ordained ministry. The great danger for all who have experienced the third call is that it can begin to undermine the first two. And the relentlessness of parish ministry, the fact that there is always more to do and never enough time in which to do it, can be one of the biggest contributory factors.”
That made sense.
I went on part one of a course called the ‘Clergy Leadership Programme’ back in March, which was on the whole very good, although much of the official content was revision for me (having done more management training than I care to remember, courtesy of the Civil Service Fast Stream programme). But I came away with a particular project to undertake, which would enhance and enable my ministry, and which was specifically geared to addressing the second vocation which Dewar lists. Broadly speaking, I need to take more exercise, lose weight etc. More specifically, if I get the general fitness levels up, I want to take up martial arts again (there is Judo club on the island, if I ever get round to finding more out about it).
So that message was reinforced. And it has been reinforced even further by another nugget from Kathleen Norris. She writes about accedia, and she says “It suggests sleep when what I need most is to take a walk. It insists that I shut myself away when what I probably need is to be with other people” and she quotes Waugh describing it as a ‘refusal of joy’. I think I am guilty of this particular sin; not in a dramatic way, but a legacy of a depression some years ago which I have not yet fully shaken off. The traditional remedy is prayer and psalmody, singing God’s praises (no wonder I'm so animated by that at the moment). And exercise.
So it all fits together.
Clever old God, as my director is fond of saying.