I'm very aware that I haven't written much on this blog since I started. There are a number of reasons for that, but most are to do with adjusting to the pace of life as a curate.
I've spent the last few weeks thinking that I should write something, but without knowing what to write, and I'm still none the wiser really, so maybe I'll just share some of what's been going on in my head before bringing you up to date in other articles.
1. How much can I say? While it's never been my intention for my blogs to be a 'dear diary' style, it's actually really difficult when you are meeting people day by day and finding out something about them to be able to come home and write, even in general terms, without identifying them in some way - after all the communities I work in are quite small, and what might seem fairly abstract descriptions to town and city dwellers (e.g. "I was speaking earlier today to a young mum of 2, another one on the way...") actually pinpoints somebody in a village. And anyway there is a requirement that many of the conversations and encounters I have will stay confidential, so I can't write about them anyway.
2. What is my role? As a new curate I am still grappling with the new identity that I have - not only am I a husband and a father, but where previously I went off to a job in an office somewhere, I now wear a label around my neck that makes me public property, and wearing that label means I need to make sure that everything I'm seen doing is appropriate for somebody in my position. And there's a difference between behaving how people would expect clergy to behave and doing something that might challenge their assumptions about the Church and God.
3. The job itself. Most crucially, it's taken me this long to get to grips with the rhythm of the week. Church life can be heavily linked to the school terms, in terms of the availability of volunteers, but also in the weekly work that you do with all children and young people. As soon as there is a school holiday, even if just for a week, my week is instantly more relaxed. I've now taken several funerals, and realised along the way that each time I get a funeral there are going to be 7 or 8 hours of work associated with that - visiting, preparing the service, writing a tribute and an address, taking the service, getting there and back, and sometimes going to the wake afterwards.
Each week I will usually have either a sermon to deliver or a service to lead. A sermon for me at this stage will easily take a working day to prepare. Most services I lead are new to me - not necessarily in terms of general content, but in terms of 'how we do it here', and I'm only just getting round to doing the same service on the same Sunday of the month for the second or third time in each church. And then you have to remember for each churches whether it is you or the organist that chooses the hymns, and will somebody be expecting to deliver their carefully crafted prayers or rehearsed reading only for the curate to stumble in with his.....
In hindsight it's easy to see that I've needed a bit of time to work it all out, and I hope that creative juices have now been unleashed. Many more articles to follow!