There was a card this morning from my favourite English clergyman, a man whose ministry has been very different from anything possible in Ireland.
Spending years amongst the great and the good, he has developed a graciousness and humility that come from seeing people and seeing the world as they really are. The line-up of those whom he has met would make the gossip columnists jump up and down with excitement; it would make the paparazzi lather at the mouth. He is unfazed by any of it.
His words spoke of Christian ministry and I smiled when I thought about how different are paths had been.
Last week, I typed the parish magazine; I got the church boiler going again; I fought with the photocopier; I spent two hours on Thursday evening with a group of parishioners cleaning years of dust and cobwebs from the parish hall; I spent so long trying to figure out my tax liability for 2008 that I had a headache; and I struggled with a string of other odd things. None of which is any different from the experience of many, if not most, of my colleagues.
It would have been nice to have had the opportunity to move amongst the great and the good, but some of us are foot soldiers, which means the trivial and the unexciting things.
Being a Rector in most places means being the only paid employee of the parish and therefore being regarded as the one who is there for every parish eventuality. If the church is cold, then the Rector has not been keeping his eye on things; if keys are needed for the hall, the Rector is there; if Mrs Blenkinsopp has left her reading glasses in church, well, the Rector might look for them.
Jesus, being trained as a carpenter, would have been well-suited to most of our parishes, they could have significantly reduced their maintenance costs, (although there would probably have been complaints about the length of his hair and they would have preferred it if he had trimmed his beard). I think Jesus would have enjoyed the company and the craic of the work parties, and would happily have sat down and drank tea in the kitchen; though sometimes I think he would suggest that there was maybe a bit more to ministry than keeping everything going.
I must pen some words in response to the card. Not that I have much to say, apart from it’s surprising how much dust can accumulate on a concrete wall.