Since the beginning of the summer, my Training Incumbent has been on leave due to illness. Because of that, I’ve found myself holding the fort for the six churches (four parishes) we run in this small corner of Wales.
It’s been a very sharp change to get used to. Thankfully I’ve been in the parishes long enough to know all the people and the way things are done, but that still doesn’t mean it’s been easy to navigate. Increasingly so, curates are finding themselves in similar positions. In the Welsh context, this often can’t be helped. So how do you cope if you find yourself in a similar position to me? Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
Being realistic is critical
I’ve needed to be realistic mainly in two different ways. Firstly, about the situation. It is not good to shroud any situation where a member of clergy is off in a mystery. I’ve had to be up front with key people in the parishes about the fact that we are in a contingency situation. Secondly, I’ve had to be realistic about what I can physically do. Whether curate or curate-who-happens-to-be-holding-the-fort, my contracted hours remain the same. I must watch my work-life balance. I need a day off. I still took my annual leave. However, being someone who is driven and self-motivated, I know I’m going to need to keep myself in check.
Communicating with wardens
One thing I immediately did was to get all the church wardens together to have a chat. I talked through what I thought my vision for the parishes is for this particular time and thrashed out some ideas to keep everyone together and maintain consistency and continuity to our worship and outreach. The meeting was very productive, and there have been numerous requests for this to be a more “regular thing”. I also plan to meet the treasurers in due course to check to see how they are.
Moving and cancelling events
I’ve realised that it is important to prioritise certain meetings and services over others. PCC meetings are not happening at the moment without me being present. This is not because they couldn’t possibly meet without me, but I feel I owe it to the parishes that they are in touch with their stipendiary clergy and that I am there to offer some stability in uncertain times.
Finding reason to celebrate
A member of the clergy not being with us does cause a bit of uncertainty and concern amongst parishioners. Therefore I’ve found it a good thing to organise events that bring us all together. One such event that will be happening soon is the arrival of an ordinand on placement with us who will become part of our team for a year. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming the ordinand and it’s been great to hear the churches praying for this exciting time.
So why the title, responsibility without authority? The answer is simple, and it is that this is what my ministry is at the moment. I have added responsibility as curate but I have no authority to make decisions. I continue to submit to the processes and systems of others whilst trying my hardest to grow and feed the flocks that are now in my care. It’s a hard balance to find, and, in many ways, impossible to do anything about.
Please pray for me, and for my Training Incumbent at this time, as well as the parishes in which I serve.