Archive for March, 2009

When vicars (or their wives) are chatting about the joys and challenges of parish life, there’s a sort of shorthand to describe the less spiritual aspects of church leadership that church leaders usually have to get involved in: ‘drains’, and sometimes ‘guttering’.

I remember chatting with Chickenfan, who was speaking at a Clergy Wives conference I was on. He’d resigned from parish ministry to concentrate on speaking and teaching the bible. ‘It’s a great relief not to have to worry about the drains’, he said.

How sermon prep time is drained away

How sermon prep time is drained away

Well, this weekend the Vicar had his first experience of drains. We were hanging about in the church hall at the end of the monthly church coffee morning, just getting ready to leave. The church itself was being used by another congregation for a big meeting, so the building was quite busy.

An elderly lady form the other church caught me and told me that one of the ladies’ toilets was blocked, so I went to have a look. Having worked as a sewage engineer and everything, I wasn’t afraid.

It was indeed blocked, although there was no obvious cause. At the same time, Westie (a church member) mentioned to the Vicar that there was a bit of a leak in the church hall kitchen. As the Vicar and Westie started mopping up it became obvious that the leak was from the dreaded drains and was linked to the blocked loo. Yuck.

So the Vicar and wife, ably aided by Westie, leapt to the rescue. Leaving the men to the dirty mopping, I went back to the Vicarage and called the cavalry (the churchwarden) who advised sending for the specialists. I picked a number from the Yellow Pages and was promised a visit within an hour or so.

When I returned to the hall, the toilets had been declared out of bounds (not ideal when there are a couple of hundred people in the building). But at least the leak had stopped. The Vicar got busy bleaching the kitchen sinks, after he and Westie had scrubbed the floor with Flash.

The warden returned to supervise the drain specialists who cleared the blockage with rods. The Vicar was also in attendance, so is now up to speed on the drain layout of the church. There was talk of obtaining a set of drain rods for the church to save further call outs.

Problem solved, and a couple of sermon prep hours down the drain. Time management is tricky as a vicar.

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Snap is my friend, also a new vicar’s wife. This the story about how life at the Vicarage started out for her:

bishop3The day before Rev Snap’s induction the Bishop just happened to be in the area and called in for a cup of tea.  Rev Snap was in the middle of putting up the shed in the garden and so was in his scruffiest clothes. He’d taken a break to go to the bathroom to produce a urine sample to take to the Doctor’s as requested at his new patient check up the week before.

Snap had to leave for the Doctor’s to deliver the sample before the Bishop left. She went into the bathroom to collect the wee pot assuming her beloved would have left it there for her when he heard the front door bell go. But alas the pot was still in his pocket.

Her beloved knew that Snap was leaving, and that she knew where the pot was. But was this the right moment to let the Bishop in on such intimate details? Husband and wife were able to silently communicate: ‘Let’s leave it till later’.

But then Snap Junior came running into the kitchen having filled his own pot. He proudly held it aloft and asked his mum to put his name on it. Looks like the Bishop is already getting to know the family inside out.

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The Vicar hates admin. Thinking about paperwork makes him go all clammy and breathless. He’s very good at many things but forms and scheduling give him the jitters. When he’s asked about praying for spiritual gifts, administration is the one he says he covets (it’s there in the bible).

I don't make him coffee (but only because he doesn't like it)

I don't make him coffee (but only because he doesn't like it)

Thankfully the Lord sent him a wife who likes opening the post and thinking about the dates of events. That was a pretty low key job when he was a curate. But the volume of post at the Vicarage is much larger. At the moment I’m spending a fair amount of time calling up worthy charities and suggesting that they remove us from their mailing lists. I don’t think it’s possible for one small urban church to support the dozen or so organisations who contact us each week. And we’d rather spare them the cost of the postage!

Obviously, some churches have vicars who are efficient administrators or have paid administrators who can do this sort of work, and maybe our church will become one of the latter (the former being unlikely unless the Spirit works mightily). But for now, it’s back to opening the mail. And sending the Vicar Facebook messages with his diary dates. Best to put it in writing.

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On the day of his induction service, when he was handed the keys to the church and officially started work, the Vicar received a telephone call from the Express and Star, our local daily newspaper.

The journalist was following the diary of the Mayor of Sandwell and wanted to know what he was doing coming to our church that evening. The Vicar explained that he (the Vicar) would be starting work in the parish, and the journalist ended up interviewing him and sending round a photographer.

For some reason, though, the article didn’t make it to the E&S website, so I’ve scanned it for you to see in all its glory. Unless you have x-ray vision, you’ll probably have to use the Ctrl and + keys to zoom in to read it.

The Vicar in the paper

The Vicar in the paper

The lack of cropping is because of my poor technical skills, but gives you a flavour of the rather eclectic style of the E&S – see how the article about the vicar is on the same page as (and rather larger than) one about the New York financier Bernard Madoff and his £37.5 billion fraud.

And just so you know, we think the journalist misheard ‘England’ as ‘Ireland’ when the Vicar was talking about the places he’d lived. And more on my recent lads mags encounter at Sainsbury’s soon.

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Moving house seems to generate extra laundry:

A pretty accurate diagram of my washing mountain

This is actually a pretty accurate diagram of my washing mountain

HT: Anna Young

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According to Lord Laming, directors of council Children’s Services departments need to be retrained to understand the pressures of frontline social work. This will mean that they can support their staff properly.

According to the Vicar’s Wife, they also need to be retrained in postal logistics and basic form reading skills. And support their staff to do the same.

First impressions count

First impressions count

I applied for school places for the Queen and the Joker before we moved to the vicarage. We changed local authority from Wolverhampton to Sandwell. So I carefully completed Sandwell’s schools application forms, accompanied by a covering letter, for both children and hand delivered them to the reception desk of the Sandwell Children’s Services department. On a Friday morning.

When I called a week later to find out how they were getting on with my applications, I was told that the department had not received them until the Tuesday. My paperwork had taken three working days to move a few floors up in the building. Not a good first impression.

A few days later I called the school to find out if they’d heard anything. But apparently, they are told about children’s allocations to a school after the family. But the very helpful lady in the school office said she would call Children’s Services and then get back to me.

When she got back to me she told me that the children did have places (hooray!), but that Children’s Services had sent my letter about it to the Vicarage. Where I would not be living for another three weeks. As I had especially informed them in my covering letter and on the forms I had sent.

Children’s Services re-sent the letter to my Wolverhampton home. And I discovered that they had given places to Queen Vicar in Year One, and Vicar Joker in Year Three. So the Queen, who is seven, would be sitting in a class with a bunch of children two years younger than her and the Joker, who is six, would be stretched by being promoted to the Juniors. And being called by his surname instead of his first name.

Now I know that my children have rather unusual names and that the Joker’s first and sur- names could be interchanged to make a ‘normal’ name. But so can many people with Scottish heritage. Like the Vicar for instance, and the Engineer. But his sister and mother (I signed my name in the covering letter and on the form) have the same surname. AND I COMPLETED THE FORM CORRECTLY! With the right names in the right boxes and everything! And I can’t believe that in multicultural Sandwell, everybody is called ‘Jack Smith’ or ‘Jane Brown’.

So all in all, Sandwell Council have a bit of work to do to begin winning me over now. Three mistakes in their first piece of communication with me is not a good record sheet. I’m not surprised that this is the council that landed itself with The Public.

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Sofa debris

Things I found down the back of the sofa when we decided to hoover it before putting the new vicarage covers on:

  1. A plastic stick from Tumbling Monkeys (or possibly the Kerplunk)
  2. A plastic 2p coin
  3. A green tattoo pen
  4. A ‘what am I?’ game card
  5. A charm bracelet
  6. A piece of a jigsaw
  7. A marble (also possibly from the Kerplunk)

This does not include the ample feasting opportunities for mice which we hoovered up. And there are two armchairs and another sofa to go yet.

Apologies for lack of recent posting. The Vicar gets handed the church keys in a service this evening so the unpacking has been getting a bit frantic. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

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This made me smile this evening…

The Vicar is nearly always mindful of his advice, I’m grateful to say.

[HT Tim Ambrose]

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Chapter 1 – Restating the Obvious

So the first week of Lent is nearly up, and I’ve read the first chapter of C J Mahaney’s book. It was a great reminder to me of where my life, especially my thought life, should be focussed.

The Vicar's Wife's Lent Book

The Vicar's Wife's Lent Book

In this chapter he sets out his aims for the book.
He wants his readers to know that:

The key to joy, to growth, to passion isn’t hiding from you. It’s right before your eyes.

It’s the gospel

Mahaney begins his book by imagining Timothy first reading Paul’s second letter to him. As Paul faces death, his final word to Timothy is to guard the gospel, the one truth, the one message.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel                                         2 Timothy 2v8

Mahaney reminds his readers that

Jesus Christ died so that sinners would be reconciled to God and forgiven by God.

He calls this the ‘foundational reality’ of the message that Paul taught and the ‘only essential message in all of history’. If our lives are not centred on this message we can find that

  1. We often lack joy
  2. We don’t consistently grow in spiritual maturity
  3. Our love for God lacks passion
  4. We are always looking for some new technique, some ‘new truth’ or new experience that will pull all the pieces of our faith together.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to all these symptoms. I’m not a very emotional person, so I think I can dismiss my lack of joy and passion ‘because I’m just not like that’. I also have excuses for my failure to grow in maturity, pretending that I’m already mature – I’m a Vicar’s wife after all. And a new quiet time book will always be the solution to my failures.

So I’m very much looking forward to reading more and getting back to the cross this Lent. Chapter 2 is really short, so keep on reading!

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