Spent three days this week with our students at TISEC – Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church. This was their annual Summer School when they spend a week together in the monastery at Kinnoul. That in itself is a heart-warming experience for me as it is a little outpost of ‘Ireland in Scotland’ complete with its Mrs Doyle person … ‘Would you not have a little more of the strawberries and cream, Father …? Ah, go on …’
It’s good to get in amongst the people and take the measure of who they are, where they come from and what their hopes and dreams are. Training for ministry has a tendency to become politicised in all churches and the SEC is no exception to that. There is so much at stake – the training process shapes the future shape and character of ministry and has a big impact on the shape and character of the church itself.
I offered them ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ in some short offerings at Evening Prayer. It comes down to the ‘seductions of ministry’. We all try to be devastatingly competent. But committed and caring people tend to want to ‘fix’ things in people’s lives. And of course the whole point of ministry is that it often deals with things which by definition cannot be fixed. And then there is the insidious feeling that one might actually be good at the ministry business – summed up for me in the immortal lines:
Float like a butterfly/Sting like a bee
I am the greatest/God bless me
Most clergy I know are vague, forgetful and poor at management, can’t keep their diaries in order, etc. Frustrating as this is for laypeople, I feel it’s the way a priest should be, ie. saying morning prayer instead of updating his/her emails. Vacancy in my own parish currently, when will this ” saint and perfect minister” materialise?
Trouble is, Lilian, that one can’t assume that clergy who are vague, forgetful and poor at management are likely to balance that by being holy. Some of us are just vague. I have good days and less good days …
I couldn’t agree more with your comments on the temptation as a priest to be a “fixer.” However, the longer I am in ministry (25 years and counting) the less effective I seem to be, which is probably a good thing as it means that I am more alongside the people dealing with the situation rather than pontificating from above.
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