This is a comment that I have heard so many times, with occasional slight variations, that it ought to by now have exceedingly long grey whiskers on it. Yet each time I hear it said, the person saying it to me thinks they are being highly amusing. So please excuse this little rant as I try to debunk yet another popular myth about the clergy.
Yes, I do work on Sunday – and often for quite long hours. When I conduct a service in Brno as well as in Prague, I’m away from home for around a minimum of thirteen hours and drive about 420 kilometres. If I travel by train, whilst I don’t have to drive, I don’t get home until after midnight, having left the Chaplaincy Flat at around 10.00 in the morning.
I would hope that anyone with a few grams of common sense, would realise that Sunday worship does not just ‘happen’ – it has to be planned. There is the obvious matter of writing a sermon, having reflected on the Biblical readings set by the Lectionary. But there are also hymns to be chosen and appropriate insertions into the liturgy to be identified. Then because I live a twenty minute tram journey from the Church, I always have to make sure in advance, that I have with me everything I will need. When going to Brno, this is even more important.
As in many Churches, we produce a ‘Weekly Bulletin’ or ‘pew sheet’, to be given to everyone attending worship, along with a copy of the the Order of Service and a hymn book. It contains the text of the Biblical readings, the Collect, along with notices and details of forthcoming events. Again, that does not mysteriously appear – it has to be drafted, proof-read and then printed.
As in so many professions these days, I have to deal with a lots of administration. I suspect that many of my readers would be amazed at the number of emails that land in my Inbox each day, nearly all of which are expecting a quick, detailed and accurate reply. In November and December last year, I did manage for once, to pre-empt enquiries about when and what time were our Christmas services, by posting all the details on our Church website in early November. But doing that is a time consuming administrative task in its own right. And although it is still January, I’ve already had the first enquiry as to whether we are holding services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and if so, what time do they start!
Like most clergy, I hold an office – I am the Anglican Chaplain in the Czech Republic. I do not have a job description with set hours. I also have the constant tension between ‘being‘ and ‘doing‘. If asked, most people would expect me to be giving time to praying, reading the scriptures, together with further theological study. This is what I would describe as ‘being‘. Yet at the same time, there is the expectation that I should be out and about and be seen to be ‘doing‘ things. A balance between these two is extremely difficult to find.
Even when I am ‘doing’, it is frequently the case that I do not really want others to know very much about what I am doing. Spending time with a couple with marriage difficulties or giving a listening ear to someone who is depressed, is an important part of my ministry but the the last thing the individuals concerned need, is me broadcasting details of my pastoral work.
Some things are more public such as leading mid-week study groups and conducting the occasional weddings. But just like Sunday services, these too don’t happen without appropriate preparation. And like nearly all of the other things I have outlined here, they rarely take place on a Sunday but on the other six days of the week.
I will finish this post/rant with an exchange Sybille saw on Facebook, several months ago. An Anglican priest wrote, “The next person who tells me I only work on Sundays is likely to be punched in the face!’ His Bishop responded, “And I will hold him down whilst you do so, with all the love of Jesus in my heart!” Whilst I have no time for threats of physical violence, I do know all too well, where the priest was coming from. And how nice to have such a supportive bishop 🙂