The BBC reported yesterday that a recent study has shown that Church of England vicars sometimes hide from callers/parishioners to their Vicarage in order to take a rest from the pressures and strains of pastoral works and church life.
Here is the article from the BBC Website:
Church of England clergy sometimes “hide from constant callers” to take a break from the pressure of church life, a Lancaster University study has found.
Researchers interviewed 46 deans to find “the personal costs of committing yourself to God”.
Study leader Dr Caroline Gatrell said findings showed that “living in the vicarage is different from what you would do in most jobs”.
As a result, clergy “developed strategies for coping,” she added.
She said being a parish vicar could impact heavily on home life.
‘Pretended to be out’
“Some found their vicarages were used as the parish office and there’d be a secretary in one of the back bedrooms.
“Also, there would be community lunches and one guy said it was common for people to wander into his home and start helping themselves to the contents of his cupboards.
“He said he had felt conflicted, because his wife had got quite upset but he wanted to be seen as a good host and a good vicar.”
She said one interviewee said they worked to “preserve bank holidays and if they did not actually go out, they hid”.
“They put the car in the garage and shut the door and went upstairs to a room at the back of the house, pulled all the blinds and watched TV and read with their family.
“If someone knocked on the door, they pretended to be out.”
She said that not every interviewee used such methods and that some said that “the priesthood came first”.
The Right Reverend Dr Nigel Peyton, who co-authored the study, said it was “revealing that every interview was interrupted in some way by a caller at the door or on the phone”.
Dr Peyton, who worked within the Church of England before becoming the Bishop of Brechin, said “being a priest is like being a monarch, as you can’t resign and your job is your life”.
“As the vicar in the very accurate sitcom Rev said, ‘there is no such thing as a day off when you are a vicar’.
“You do not have the same opportunities or freedom as other people and this does entail sacrifices.”
I’m not a vicar, but I know quite a few, and I myself am on a journey to potentially becoming a vicar in the not-too-distant future. Someone questioned me on the phone last night about why I wanted to be a vicar, considering all the problems the job comes with.
I couldn’t give an answer, only that God has called me to it, and that I must follow.
I work full time in a church in a pastoral role as well as maintaining admin, shadowing my boss, and doing other bits and pieces. I sometimes find pastoral situations hard, and for that I’m glad I don’t have the book stopping at me in a lot of cases! I also find that working for a church isn’t like an office job. You don’t have set hours which means your free time can be cancelled in a split moment to deal with something down at the church or a pastoral emergency.
I’ve also found that pastoral situations seem to come like busses. All at once. Of course, pastoral issues are always there when you are in a people job. But many seem to bubble up all at once, and sometimes it feels overwhelming.
People have high expectations of you and quite often you can’t deliver on them, and sometimes you feel like you can’t please anyone. That’s not to mention the disagreements that people in church have with each other, and you find yourself trying to mediate and reconcile whilst trying to do it in Christian love with a view to maintain Biblical unity. And that’s just the pastoral bit!
On top of that there is fundraising, admin work, building maintenance, the various ministries attached to the church, community projects and everything else.
Don’t get me wrong, any vicar will tell you that there are good things to ministry, and many would say that the good definitely outweighs the bad. But sometimes I guess it is hard for vicars to keep perspective when so much weight and responsibility rests on them.
As a young leader in formation for a future ministry, I find that there are other pressures, burdens and issues that I have to contend with. But that’s for another time. One thing I am learning though, as someone who is exploring ministry and not a vicar yet, is that the more experienced a vicar gets, the less they seem to know. I know that seems like an oxymoron (or whatever the correct term is!), but it’s true. I don’t mean that they know any less… I mean that life gets more and more complicated. Of course, in a way it’s good that a church leader feels more inadequate as their experience deepens, because it is, I think, the way that God causes their experience and themselves to rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to work things out.
The more I shadow the vicars in my church and try to have a positive input into the pastoral life of the church, the more I see things from the other side of the curtain. Until recently I never really understood the true value of just a small encouragement amidst a day of negativity, things going wrong and hard work. Until recently I didn’t realise that witholding my negative comment could save someone’s sanity for the rest of the day. I also never fully appreciated a “lazy day”!
In one way, it’s no wonder that Vicars go into hiding mode at times. They need to sometimes! And I think the biggest realisation that we as the Church need to know is that vicars are humans like us with all their weaknesses, struggles and vices. They need care, love, attention to exactly the same extent as you think that you (and I) need when we go to them for pastoral support. And added to that, I think just as vicars need to keep perspective, so do we.
As the article from the BBC said, Rev. is a very accurate portrayal of what ministry is like. So to end, here’s a clip from Rev. Enjoy!