Monday, 10 October 2016


"Oh, WoW!!" declared Mystery Monk as he sat at his computer.
"There is NOTHING exciting about computers!" responded the Abbot.
"Erm, have you actually read your emails recently?" enquired the young monk
"I try not to," confessed the Abbot, "ever since I accidentally agreed to lead an assembly for several hundred teenagers, when I thought I was booking a retreat..."
"Well you might want to today...."announced the young Monk.
"Can't you just tell me?" requested the Abbot.
"Data protection"  replied Mystery Monk sagely "Maybe you haven't had a communication.....  they could be reserved for young monks with a presence on social media..." 
"Hmmmph!" snorted the Abbot.  His resolve to stay detached from the internet was overridden by his desire to know what had elicited such an enthusiastic response from his younger colleague, and off he trotted to get his laptop.

The Abbot returned, sat down at the table and turned on his computer.  After the younger monk had reminded him of his password, which was based on his favourite passage of scripture, he logged on and ploughed through his backlog of electronic communications.
"Lots of rubbish emails...
how many altar candles do they think we need, and why would we want ones that changed colour?.....
Now what exactly am I looking for..? 
Ah, an email from the Diocese..I assume that is what you are talking about?"
"If it is about safeguarding, or returns, no... important that those are, of course!"
"Ah! But if it is an invitation to hear a certain Justin speak...?
"Well that will tick a few boxes in on our Continuous Spiritual and Educational Advancement returns...!" declared the beaming Abbot.
"I find it very interesting how he came to head up the Anglican Church. I bet he never imagined that he would lead the good old C Of E when he was young.  I know that when I was a child my ambitions did not go further than wanting to be a fireman. I even had my very own 'Fireman Sam' costume...
"Why does that not surprise me? grinned the Abbot.
"The possibility of becoming a monk did not cross my mind until very much later..."
"Yes, I know what you mean. When I was a child my ambition was to become a train driver.  However gradually my life began to follow a different sort of track, as God revealed the plans that he had for me. I still love trains, but I am very happy with the life as an Abbot.   

Mystery Monk sat back and pondered with a far away look in his eye, and mused on life as an Archbishop...
"He has a pretty hectic schedule, with so many people having expectations of him. 
He holds the whole Anglican communion together. One foolish comment and the whole thing could disintegrate.... No pressure...."
"Yes, he is a good man, with one tough job! I do not envy him in the slightest!  Mind you I think there is great pressure on all clergy, which is why one of our charges is to pray and support them.  The leadership are looking at ways that we can work more closely with  local ministers, hence why we now live in the community."
Mystery Monk considered the implications of this.
"If you were the Archbishop of Canterbury, how would you change things to help the clergy?"
" Oooh that's a big question.  
Chatting to clergy at the local chapter meeting the other week, the issues that kept recurring were:  a desire for further management training, budget shortfalls and the often unrealistic expectations of their parishioners."
" Clergy aren't managers are they?"
"Many of them responded to a call to work with people and look after them spiritually.  As clergy numbers dwindle, they end up managing others to do the job they felt called to do, and do not get time to do the kind of work they feel fulfilled in doing."
" Why do they have these helpers if they would rather do the work themselves?"
"The clergy don't have time to visit everyone, lead concurrent services.  It's just that the more people that get involved, the more complicated it becomes. Clergy no longer have the time to pop round for a cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich with everyone....they are often looking after tens of thousands of people!"
"How can they?"
"Well obviously they cannot do everything. They can only reach a small fraction, so can their helpers. Any team needs training & guidance, and that takes MORE of their time, and so they end up being managers to their teams and a figurehead to the community."
"That must be very frustrating for them!"
"For many of them it is, just as frustrating as the financial situations many of them find themselves in. There is nothing harder than having a building that is not fit for use, but cannot be changed because of history. It is not suitable for the present or the future and it keeps the church in the past, and so attendance declines - who wants to sit on hard seats in a draughty building with no heating.
They should tiptoe away quietly and find somewhere better suited to their purpose!"
"Ha!  Somehow I do not imagine that would go down very well with the powers that be!"
" what can they do?"
"They do what they can, and trust God. Everyone expects their leader to have all the answers, but clergy are only human, just like us.  Unfortunately they also have to meet the expectations of their congregations - and each and everyone of those will have an opinion on how things should be done.  They work six days a week, so their families rarely see them. In their families eyes the church always comes first."
"Where is God in all this?"
"Good question"
"Do you have any thoughts on how things could be changed?"
"Just a few, but remember, these are my views only. I do not have the authority to speak for the Community, or even the Anglican Communion!"
Mystery Monk grinned, and sat and waited for the Abbot to speak.  One thing he had learnt while he was in the community, was to wait and listen.

Finally the Abbot spoke
'...Limit clergy working time to 5 days a week, and check with their family that they are keeping to this.... 

Give them  access to further management training, so they have strategies for dealing with people, especially difficult ones!...

Train more non-stipendiary clergy so there are more clergy... 

Make town centre churches, Ministers, recognising their status as the Mother church of the town, and encourage them to link together with arts to make it easier for non-church goes to draw close to God and feel more at home in church buildings....  

Encourage all churches to develop as centres for hospitality, encouraging people to cross the threshold....

Encourage churches that are pretty to get members of their community to be a 'friend' and to feel involved.....

Suburban churches worry me most. Often their communities do not see them as relevant. If they want a church wedding they often opt for a village church close by, which will look good in the wedding album....

Christenings or baptisms are no longer the norm and funerals have become secularised, with many taken by Civil Celebrants..."

"...and how would all these changes be paid for?"
"I have absolutely no idea!"
"So nothing can change?"
"Oh yes,  any situation can change. But in order for change to happen we need to be prepared to be part of the solution."
"So, where do I sign up?"
"Start with prayer and see where God leads..."
"I love a good adventure!"

Bloggers Note - these blogs are general musings and should not be taken as referring to any particular situation or to any persons - apart from a mention of the recent visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the diocese...