30 years ordained this year, and someone asked me what I thought I’d learnt. That conversation gave birth to a few stray thoughts on the back of an envelope. It would be rather grand to call them laws of Vicaring, but here goes (in no particular order of importance):If someone says Jesus has healed their wooden leg, rejoice, but be sure to kick them in the shins first, just to make sure.That’s enough Billies for now. I’m sure everyone has discovered their own rules — the floor is yours!
If you get away with it and it works, fine. If it doesn’t and they catch you, just cough up cheerfully and enjoy all the times you got away with it
Do the job you’re doing now with all your heart, not the one you used to do in your last parish, or hope to do in your next. Time flies when you’re having fun...
Don't ask until you’ve worked out the question. Only ask people questions they are likely to answer in the way you want. Also, Don't ask when the baby is due until the new lady in Church has actually told you she is pregnant. Never ask a Lawyer “Can we do this?” The question is always “How can we do this?”
Pick up the bloody phone! (This applies to outgoing as well as incoming calls)
You do not have their P45's in your back pocket, so always explain, always apologise
Make the other lot line up with their own rulebook, and have a go at doing so yourself before you propose change
Be extremely loyal to your predecessors. They are your most powerful secret weapon, along with people who pray quietly at home.
Schedule your free time as zealously as you would a funeral. Your family are the closest members of the body of Christ. Strive not to be toxic to them, and remember they didn't ask to have you for a parent.
Beware Grand Designs, especially your own. Dolus latet in generalibus — the Devil's in the detail, along with the delight...
You can't argue with whining, but you can with anger. Damaged, angry people have their own reward. Bless ’em all.
Rigid faith is often brittle. In the Kingdom the first often come last and the last first. You are not God's minders, or managers, but guides who should strive to be reliable and trustworthy (I Corinthians 4)
You inherited far more than you realise. Before you go buy a new tool, check the old toolbox you seldom use and nine times out of ten you've already got one. Revolution by tradition!
All constructive change works from the inside out — “You can sleep in the Garage, but it don't make you an automobile” (Billy Graham?)
This job is about the how and why of people’s lives, including your own. You accomplish far more long term than you think, and far less in the here and now: “I think I've far exceeded what I ever thought I could possibly do. I'm almost shocked that I'm still around after all these years . . . and always grateful that I get another turn to do something.” (Billy Crystal)
“The Church doesn’t need new members half as much as it needs the old lot making over.” (Billy Sunday)
Laws of Vicaring
Last week I came across the blog of Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham for the Anglican Church. I found his list of things he's learned in 30 years of "vicaring" (wish I could say that) pretty wise...he's obviously learned a lot more than I have in MY almost thirty years since my ordination. Oh, and for future reference, I think a P45 is something like the British equivalent of a pink slip.