During my recent course on Leading God’s People Today (LGPT) we had the opportunity to create an Open Space in which a question of our choice could be asked by two or three of us, who then proceeded to set up ‘market-stalls’ in different venues, where the only thing on offer was the question and a request for thoughts or answers. The other participants could then choose to come and browse your ‘stall’ for a long or as short a time as they wished, drift off to another stall and return again if they wanted
I felt this was too good an opportunity to miss! Here were about a dozen ‘leaders’ of various types. Some with vast knowledge in their particular field, some who were still learning as they went along and others with lots of concrete life experiences. The majority of them were clergy with a sprinkling of lay people thrown into the mix.
My question?…… What advice would you give to a new Ordinand? Subtext – Spill the beans on all of those things that your training establishment might neglect to tell you
Their answers turned out to be not unsurprisingly good and honest. In fact they were not only valid points for a clergy person but could also be useful to anyone whose life involves meeting, caring for and engaging with other people. I share them with you here:
‘On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it’ Matthew 13:46
Value Friendships – Remember friendship like any other relationships needs time and effort on both sides. Hold on to those who have travelled longest with you, don’t leave them out of your lives even though your job may mean that you are having to meet lots of new people. There will probably be many who will want to know you simply because of your position; some of them will turn out to be true friends others pastoral acquaintances.
Take care of yourself – You’re of no use to anyone else if you end up being the one who needs looking after. Give yourself time off and don’t feel guilty. If you’re feeling stressed recognise that it’s time you found a safety valve in order to let off steam. Find a hobby that’s completely away from your line of work – collect orchids, take up tap dancing, play online computer games with the pseudonym Daft Vacar
You’re in it for the long haul – Things may be new and exciting at first and you might be buzzing with ideas, but you have to pace yourself. You are not going to change the world overnight or the choir’s penchant for repeatedly singing the Wesley brothers 18th century top twenty hits. These things take time… make the most of making memories for the future.
However – Be aware that change is inevitable – You may think after a few years that you’ve got it just right and it will be all plain sailing from now on; but there’s no time for complacency. You only have to look back over the last ten years and realise how much things have already changed, not only in your life but in the world around you. So be flexible and accepting of change – it might not be as bad as you or those around you think
You won’t get it right all the time – so be prepared to admit it was all your fault and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes it may be easier to take the blame anyway as this will allow things to move forward. Moreover, on those occasions where you so very clearly were right, suppress the urge to do a victory dance up and down the aisle shouting ‘Go me, go me!’* and instead be gracious and forgiving yourself. After all we all make mistakes!
Don’t forget to laugh a lot – We know that Jesus wept, and no doubt there will be plenty to be sorrowful about over the years. There are also bound to be days when you want to scream at the world to sort itself out. However, maintaining a sense of humour should be a priority. Laugh at the absurdity of life, laugh with your friends, laugh out loud – it really is still the best medicine. Be mindful though that not everyone is going to be appreciative of your sense of comedy – they may not laugh at your jokes…. or if they do it might be out of pity!
Some really valuable advice then to hold on to – genuine pearls of wisdom
*This apparently is particularly unhelpful during the Sunday morning Eucharist service