Did you ever wonder why being a cleric returning from holidays was such a bad experience? It’s got nothing to do with leaving a temperature of 29 degrees and arriving back with the thermometer saying nine degrees, nor has it anything to do with the requirement to return to work duties the following morning. No, it is that there are always unpleasant things with which to contend upon opening the front door.
There are five good reasons for clergy to close the door, return to the airport and look for a flight somewhere (many of which are very reasonably priced at this time of year:
(i) The nutters may have been at work while you have been away. They have had weeks, months even, to write to you about whatever it is that they have imagined, but they didn’t do so because they knew that as soon as their letter came, it would have received an immediate rebuff. Instead, they wait until they know that you are not at home to indulge in their cranky writing, knowing that it will be hidden in a pile of other correspondence and that you will be too busy with serious things to give them a blasting.
(ii) The utilities may have taken your absence as an opportunity to send you an estimated bill, the consumption level suggested on the bill comparable to that of a small village, (in some cases, where clergy houses are particularly anachronistic, the estimate might not be far wrong), but it will by now be far too late to telephone them the correct figures.
(iii) You will put on half a stone as soon as you step inside the door. Having been abstemious for the whole of your time away, as soon as you step on the bathroom scales they will malfunction and show you 7 lbs heavier.
(iv) There will be someone who works eight hours a day, five days a week, with every weekend and every bank holiday off, who has never worked at Christmas or Easter, and who has never worked until the early hours of the morning and got up again at 7 am, who will say, ‘It must be great to have three weeks off’. Once such a comment brought a swift response, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll swap you my time off for 104 days of weekends’.
(v) The bold resolution not to let anything annoy you will immediately crumble in face of the latest communication from the diocese.
Joking aside, the things that really annoy are the mismanaged professional things, the unnecessary pressures, the arbitrary and fickle nature of councils and synods. In England, a Government Statutory Instrument in 2010 gave the clergy there proper terms and conditions. It is too much to expect the church here to have 21st Century attitudes when it has not yet reached the 20th Century, but at least an indication of change might be encouraging. Otherwise we should all go on holiday, and not return until reforms begin.