‘Surely, Vicar, you only work one day a week?’
Every priest has heard that old chestnut at least once! The truth is somewhat different, but of course much of what a parish priest does is not immediately obvious to the person in the street, so why should anyone know what we get up to? So when I was asked for something for the blog, I thought it might be interesting to give a snapshot of what I get up to during the week.
One of the great things about being a parish priest is that no day is the same. Sometimes it is incredibly challenging, as I find myself walking with a person going through the toughest days of their life; sometimes they are filled with utter joy. There is no ‘average’ day, but I tried to pick one day to give you a feel for the range. So here we go… I’m usually at my desk by 7.30am, quickly running though any urgent emails, particularly dealing with any diary changes. I work best in the morning so it helps to clear the decks a little. Then I head down to St Margaret’s church. It’s still school term time, so today I have a chat to a family on the way to school, the child proudly showing me a photo of himself holding a seriously large catfish he had caught!
Morning and Evening Prayer, known as the daily Offices, are vital to me. They are like breathing, and if I miss one, I feel as if I’ve skipped a step, like when you think you’ve left the oven on. Twice a day, I step out of the busyness, and take time to give to God, and just be. It’s peaceful and soothing, like taking a long, cool drink of water. It also means I read scripture every day, letting the word of God soak into me. Sometimes people join me but today it’s just me. I thank God for all the blessings He’s given me, and hold before Him everyone who has asked for prayers.
Today is Wednesday so after Morning Prayer I set up for Holy Communion. Our mid-week service is reflective, simple and said, with lots of space for people to spend with God. For some it is their ‘Sunday’ service because of work or family commitments, for others it is an additional time of prayer. Being at the altar is a time for me when the whole world falls away, and I feel completely at peace, being exactly where I feel God has called me to be. It always feels like heaven.
After the service, we clear away, and there is a lovely time of community as everyone catches up and chats. Then it is back to the Vicarage – time to crack on with preparing for Sunday’s services. This involves creating the Order of Service, adding the readings, and changing the music. Today I am also planning for the Patronal Festival “Hymns and Pimms”. The congregation at St Margaret’s were asked to suggest their favourite hymns, and so as we celebrate the feast day of St Margaret and the church dedicated to her, we will be belting out wonderful praise-filled songs, such ‘Guide me O thou great Redeemer’ and ‘How great thou art’. These are sent to Margaret Watson and the music team to look over.
After lunch I deal with some phone-calls – as well as being the parish priest I also have a Diocesan role as an Assistant DDO, which means I help people discern their vocation to ordained ministry. It’s a very exciting role, because I walk with people at a precious time as they listen to God’s calling for them. I speak to a new candidate and arrange their first meeting.
I also deal with some paperwork to do with the building of the extension project. Although a huge amount of hard work has been completed, there is a steady stream of small tasks to smooth the path of the building works, such as dealing with signing off planning permission, and dealing with queries about the Faculty paperwork.
At 2.30pm I have a change of pace. There is a Helpers’ thank you tea at the primary school, so it’s a chance to sit down with some of the parents and other helpers and celebrate all the great things that have taken place at the school this year. Some of the older pupils serve tea and cake, and it’s all rather lovely!
Later in the afternoon I have a pastoral visit – lots of different people ask to chat. Usually people want to talk over something on their mind, but there isn’t any criteria. If someone wants to talk, I’ll do my very best to be available for them.
Evening Prayer bookends my day, so I’m back at St Margaret’s, reflecting on the day. I hold before God all the people I’ve met and spoken with, ask forgiveness for the things I didn’t get right, and place into God’s care the tasks unfinished, asking for rest and a peaceful night.
Finally we end with our new Praise Aloud! service. This was the first one so I was a little nervous to see how the format would work. There was a great turnout – 17 people singing joyfully. We had some real favourites, such as ’10,000 Reasons’, and learnt a new song which we can now introduce to Sunday worship. There was also some prayer time interspersed with Taize chants. I finished the day feeling that we had been truly blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Every day is different. Only God knows what tomorrow holds, but I can’t wait to find out…
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