‘Sunday – it’s the only day you work’

 © Sybille Yates

Yours truly © Sybille Yates

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 🙂

11 comments to ‘Sunday – it’s the only day you work’

  • Well said, Ricky. The blog is mightier than the fist.

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Michael! The comment on Facebook by the priest was obviously meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek as clearly was his Bishop’s reply. But it was I’m sure, born out of the frustration that prompted me to write this post.

  • Oh, not that hoary old chestnut again, Ricky. Sigh…. I bet the people who say this wouldn’t put up with the constant emails, phone-calls, or people turning up at the door, often at the most inconvenient time, which is the lot of most clergy. Being in a good position to judge (having spent 24 years as a conscientious public librarian) I can say hand on heart that I never worked as hard in my life as when I became a fill-time parish priest – Or even a FULL-time parish priest. 🙂 🙂

    • Ricky

      It is a hoary old chestnut Perpetua, hence my mention of ‘long grey whiskers’ at the beginning of the post. I concur entirely with all that you say. One blessing here is that we very rarely get people calling at the door, except by previous arrangement. But the constant emails & phone calls at odd & very inconvenient times are certainly a regular feature of my life. And there is always the call that begins, ‘I know it’s your day-off, but……’, which forty-nine times out of fifty, could wait 24 hours!

      Rather than approving your two comments, I incorporated the correction of your typo into the original comment as I didn’t want to lose the smileys from the second 🙂

  • Sean Mccann

    When I first entered the world of work a few decades ago, an elderly workmate overheard me saying that another workmates job was easy. He came up beside me and said “Young fellow, everyone else’s job is easy until you try to do it.” Thankfully I have only rarely forgotten those words. Excellent post by the way.

    • Ricky

      Wise words indeed from your elderly workmate, Sean. All of us would do well to take note & remember them. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • I guess you are lucky that people do not turn up at your door because you live in a flat that is not clearly designated as a vicarage. My guess only, of course…
    It reminds me of a regular feature on my Facebook wall: my minister friends mentioning how far they are into their sermon-writing, and other minister friends retorting with their own. And some occasionally writing something along the lines of “I knew I had forgotten something! Sermon!” 😀
    Most of them are involved in other activities beside their congregations, too…

    • Ricky

      I think your guess is correct, Hana, although the address of the flat is clearly advertised on the Church website. Once, a Danish couple did turn up at the flat at 11.00 on a Sunday morning, thinking it was the address of the Church 🙂

      I am well aware that many Czech priests/ministers/pastors do also hold other jobs in order to make ends meet. Whilst I am only paid about 75% of what I would receive if I was serving in an English parish, I equally appreciate how relatively fortunate I am compared to many Czech colleagues.