Monday, 6 February 2012
The absurdity of many adverts for clergy posts was pointed out to me a long while ago by someone who suggested the simple stratagem of mentally reversing the redundant phrases to reveal things like lazy priest, with a poor track record, a tentative hold on faith, and an marked indifference to both young and old, sought for a contracting and unsupportive parish in an unattractive part of the country.
We had hoped that our own suggestion of The parish is waiting to explore with appropriate applicants the gifts and vocation they can bring that will complement and surprise its well established ‘Shared Ministry Team’ would strike a different note, not rule out a good candidate who didn’t happen to fit a detailed person spec we'd prepared, and place us and any candidate in a genuinely vocational discernment process.
But necessary and important consultative processes meant that, somewhere between the Bishop’s desk, the diocesan communication department and the Hospice’s HR department, this got turned into The well established Shared Ministry Team in West Grimsby collaboratively serves a number of diverse communities... a Team Ministry open to compliment and be surprised by the gifts and vocation which the person appointed will bring which, among other things, manages to edit out the discernment idea.
We were offered this on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis (‘the advert is about to appear but we could pull it altogether if you don’t like it’) and the only response a Churchwarden was able to slip in included pointing out the spelling mistake. Meanwhile, the diocesan communication department (which, it turned out, hadn’t seen the advert earlier either) did suggest the advert be pulled, and offered a rewrite (rightly retaining the Hospice’s preferred style) for consultation.
This appeared to give us an opportunity to respond, which included me pointing out again the spelling mistake and championing our own choice of words about what we would like to explore with candidates. The re-drafted advert then appeared on Friday exactly in the form in which it had been sent out for consultation without a single amendment. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
My wife encouraged me to do the first but conjuring up a picture of affirmation-starved candidates coming forward on the basis that we had promised to compliment them on their gifts. But I’m afraid I did the second faced with the truth that things have moved in the diocese to the point where a Team Rector can have no influence over the accuracy of, or wording about the parish in, an advert for a colleague. I am only grateful that I stood back from being Rural Dean eighteen months ago so only now having to encounter this sort of truth on a more occasional basis.
Anyway, the advert is out there, and, as the Bishop pointed out to one of our Churchwardens, those attracted by the Hospice half of the post will learn where the parish is coming from in relation to the other half when they receive the background papers about the job. No potential applicant worth his or her salt (to return to my opening paragraph) should take the exact wording of any advert too seriously - and so perhaps I should be more relaxed about it as well.
Meanwhile, I took the picture last week in the open porch at the front of the empty Vicarage concerned.