Sunday, 29 March 2009

Running churches

We are almost predatory in the way we distract lay people from Christian discipleship in the world by getting them to run our churches instead, and the job of running churches which we give them is getting harder and more time consuming every year.

I used to speak about the ideal candidate to bring active participation and fresh ideas to a Church Council who said he couldn’t do so because he was committed to chairing a school governing body instead, and about the newly retired member who wasn’t available to join our pastoral care team because she chose to train as a Cruse counsellor instead. In both cases the better part of me rejoiced that church membership was part of what resourced them to make a difference to their local school and to bereaved people, while the worse part of me cursed the loss of the talent we needed badly to keep our own show on the road.

Now last week, quite independently, one of our Church Council Secretaries and one of our Churchwardens gave me helpful advance notice that they’ll not be available for re-election at the AGM at the end of April. In both cases they said that they were finding it impossible to do justice to the increasing responsibilities of the roles alongside the increasing pressures of their full time work.

And I don’t see it acknowledged anywhere how the increasing responsibilities creep up on us relentlessly and cumulatively increment by increment. The responsibilities added within the last year or so have been requirements to check for any criminal records held by those with contact with the vulnerable elderly (in practice, all those who have any formal involvement in our pastoral ministry), to make fire risk assessments on each of our buildings and then to keep them up to date , and to prepare to register our parish as a separate charity and then to meet all the obligations which that involves. These are things which can’t necessarily be done by the common sense of competent individuals alone, so useful but inevitably time consuming training events in Lincoln have been offered to help qualify people for their voluntary work in areas, in one case labelled as compulsory.

Meanwhile, the Great Coates Village Council has written this week to us to ask whether there is anything we can do to manage the ‘overgrown trees etc’ the churchyard which are limiting the view of the clock on the church tower, so we'll add that to the list of things at which to look. The picture taken this morning illustrates the point, and, I've just noticed, also shows the Curate arriving for Matins thus proving that she remembered to put her clocks forward.

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