I decided to do a little investigating of my own. I’ve been hugely frustrated about many things in my ministry here but most often about the provision of the pastoral offices.
As well as myself there is another full-time Priest who has been with us for just short of 6 months, and there is a retired Priest who lives locally. I don’t get to do that many of the pastoral offices and this is a source of constant frustration for me. I realise this may sound like I therefore have nothing to do but can assure you that this is not the case!
So I had a little look through the registers for the last twelve months to see what’s been happening…
Since the beginning of November 2012 there has been a total of 53 pastoral offices. Now, percentages are not my strong point but here goes… They divide up thus:
36% were funerals or memorial services
41% were weddings
23% were baptisms
Of the baptisms, I did 58%, my full-time colleague has done 33% (in 6 months), my retired colleague did 8% and 8% were done by visiting clergy. Not too shoddy but then I did most of the scheduling up until 5 months ago…
Of the weddings, my full-time colleague and I both did 27% each, visiting clergy did 9%, and my retired colleague did 36%.
Of the funerals and memorials, I have done 16%, visiting clergy and my full-time colleague have each done 11%, and the remaining 63% were done by my retired colleague.
That means that whilst I have done just 30% of the pastoral offices this year, my full-time colleague has done 23% of the year’s total in just six months, and my retired colleague has done a whopping 40%.
Is it just me or does that seems slightly wrong?
Now, I know some clergy would give their right arm to have a retired colleague who is eager to help and picks up weddings and funerals when there is already too much in the diary. But I’m not even getting offered anything. Funerals are a particular issue. I have to fight for them. One of the local funeral directors doesn’t help by telling families that I am not available irrespective of whether or not that is true. I once had a family come back to me to ask why I was unavailable for the funeral when they had specifically asked for me. It’s a pastoral disaster. Not least because I know that with my retired colleague there is no follow-up or passing over of pastoral care for the people involved.
All my Archdeacon could say when I was asked why I was doing so few funerals was “someone needs to rein him in”. Yes, well I think that might be your job… It is particularly annoying because this particular Priest retired from Self-Supporting Ministry just two years ago because of health issues but less than 3 months later was back and doing more than ever.
In a month where I am feeling particularly fragile and disillusioned with ministry this all seems so unfair and rubbish. I’m in a position where I can’t make the decisions and no-one seems to listen and be willing to do anything about it. I question whether or not I’m cut out for this. Is all ministry like this, or does it get better?
I keep coming back to the question – Is it this place and these people, or is it just me?