Coping with a bad week

Jun 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Ministry

One mediocre meeting, one bad meeting, and one unbelievably bad meeting, and a whole string of people narky about who knows what.

Canon Law is useful sometimes.  When a week has been really bad, when the church seems to have nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth, Canon Law is sometimes the last thing left to prevent you telling everyone what you really think and then calling it a day.  When an outburst of expletives is the tempting response to a situation, it is time to dig out the Book of Common Prayer and read the rules to which we signed up.  The Church of Ireland’s Canon 33 is uncompromising:

33.    The manner of life of clergy

Clergy shall not give themselves to such occupations, habits or recreations as do not befit their sacred calling, or may be detrimental to the duties of their office, or tend to be a just cause of offence to others.  They shall be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in the examination of their conscience, and in the study of the holy scriptures and such other studies as pertain to their ministerial duties, and to frame and fashion their lives and those of their families according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make themselves and their families, as far as in them lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.

Re-reading the words, too often sometimes, it is a sobering reminder that such aspirations were once very important and that to abandon those aspirations would only compound the anger.  Swearing at people would only make matters worse, no matter how aggressive and bullying they may be.

Of course, an outburst would probably have little impact upon the person to whom it was directed, bullies tend to be immune to such resistance, may even delight that their words have prompted such a reaction.  It is more likely that the person most affected by a forcible expression of anger would be an innocent onlooker, who would be dismayed at such behaviour.  It does not do to cause offence to innocent people.

If Canon 33 is strict about the manner and life of clergy, the old ordination service is plain severe:

Have always therefore printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his spouse and his body. And if it shall happen the same Church, or any member thereof, to take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of your ministry towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ; and see that you never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.

Forasmuch then as your office is both of so great excellency and of so great difficulty, ye see with how great care and study ye ought to apply yourselves, as well that ye may shew yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord, who hath placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be occasion that others offend.

Right, so, no negligence, no viciousness, and no causing offence.  Those words seem to need to be read even more than Canon 33 these days.  Just count to ten and walk way.

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  1. Isn’t it odd that many people seem to consider it to be a right to say anything to, or about, anyone without thought for either the content of what they say or the effect on the audience. Facebook is sometimes a forum for hate filled comments that are in conflict with the author’s vocation. Your reminders from BCP are useful.

  2. I find Facebook disturbing. I wonder if this is really where people are at. If the things said on Facebook were to be repeated at an actual public meeting, there would be grounds for disciplinary action, not that the bishops take action about anything these days.

  3. I’ve actually “closed” some of the “friends” on facebook so that I can’t see the comments and the following conversations regularly. They appear on Tweetdeck and that’s more than enough! When did bishops last do any disciplining? Who tries to maintain a standard? There seem to be an awful lot of people with a great deal of hatred and anger who feel it their right to allow it all to spill out in a public forum. “Disturbing” is a good word.

  4. There is a recent edition of George Herbert’s ‘A Priest to the Temple’; I bought a copy last year. Herbert gave up a seat in parliament to be rector of a small rural parish and strove to serve God to the best of his ability in that little place (he died three years after being ordained). When the church becomes depressing, I find Herbert an inspiration

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