After the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the first pop singer I remember was a man called Eric Burdon, who was lead singer with a group called The Animals. I never knew much about the group, other than that they sang a song called “We gotta get out of this place”, which my Dad used to think was an appropriate anthem for the place where we were living.
Amongst the other songs from Burdon was one called “Good Times”, when you are a kid you don’t remember or understand most of the lyrics, (maybe a good thing!), but one line remains in my memory,
“When I think of all the good times that I’ve wasted having good times”.
I never inquired too much as to what “good times” might have meant for Eric Burdon, and, four decades on, I think I would probably prefer not to know, I suspect there wouldn’t have been much crossover between our lifestyles. But I wonder if sometimes clergy are so busy trying to be people who don’t have good times of any sort that we become more like the Pharisees than like Jesus. Our rules in the Church of Ireland say in Canon 33:
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.
It is a statement in which I would find no fault, but I wonder if we sometimes go so far to prove ourselves that we alienate the very people for whom we are trying to care. I think Jesus would have gone to the pub for the odd pint, I think he would have enjoyed the occasional soccer or rugby match. I think he might even have sat down and watched the odd sporting event on a Sunday afternoon.
If I go to a football match and have a pint of lager afterwards, I think it has been a very good time. Have I wasted good time having good times? Am I in breach of Canon 33? Or has Canon 33 been so interpreted that the church has parted company with Jesus?