Sunday, 24 June 2012

Part time and proud.

A visitor to church expressed surprise that I 'work two days and Sunday duties' and am therefore a 'part time' Curate. And that's what it says in my working agreement. Which I have signed. 

An older gentleman, he was operating on different model of priesthood. I'm afraid he may have gone home from church thinking 'mercenary'. Even the phrase 'I work...', spoken by a member of the clergy, suggests you can turn it on or off. Surely, once a priest always a priest, available to all, at any time, if needed?

Being 'part time' is something I have struggled with on and off since the arrival of three children meant 'working life' would never again be as simple as 'going to work' at 8am and leaving at 5pm to come home.

So from motherhood to priesthood...and comparing the two vocations:

I became a mother. I gave up 'work' to look after my children. I 'worked from home' with no pay and unlimited hours. I retrained as a minister, and now I 'work from home' with no pay and, no, no!!!.....that's where boundaries come in isn't it...?

In the Church we don't call people like me 'part time' because it's discriminatory. Similarly, we're not 'non-stipendiary' because that's definition by a negative. We're supposed to call ourselves 'self supporting ministers'. But I'm not self supporting; I'm supported by a full time wage earner, aka long suffering partner. The acronym LSPS (long suffering partner-supporting) is not going to catch on any time soon. And the only reason I can afford to have no pay is the clergy house thrown in, so the church is supporting me pretty well in one respect.

So I'm quite proud of my 'working agreement' - it says 'two days and Sunday duties', and that's what I try and do. Hours are worked out over several days though; maybe four here, six there, ten there if I have to...whatever's needed to meet the work, which tends to be very un-boundaried in itself (evenings/weekends/working when everyone else is celebrating...) There are morning things, afternoon things, evening things. Not all work uses up the same amount of energy. I do take one whole day off in seven. Properly. A working agreement protects this mother from working 'all hours' for the church. Given the twin vocation thing, doing two jobs could be detrimental to personal health. I've flirted with it once or twice, in very busy periods, and it's mental. Even Jesus took time off didn't he?

And yet...occasional conversations, such as the one above, make me think...can you be too boundaried? It's harder to respond spontaneously when you're 'part time'. Going away is complicated. Saturdays are tricky. Sunday evenings precious and private. If revival broke out I'd have trouble fitting it in. The children say I'm sometimes preoccupied. The house is not very clean. I love combining motherhood and priesthood but it would be easy at the end of the (very long) day, to feel compromised in both.

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