Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Week in the Life of a Curate, Day 2


The beginning of the day reads as yesterday. I bled out of bed at 7.25am somewhere between amoeba and jellyfish on the evolutionary scale. For some reason I don't get tired at night but look and feel every lost second in the morning. Being a simple and very immediate creature I haven't learned to curb my late nights, regardless of the fact that they are usually unproductive (e.g. watching Total Recall). Anyway my lost time meant I forgot my poem and economic idea which annoyed me periodically the rest of the day. I am wholly and obsessively a creature of routine. The exciting development, however, was that news has returned with the cabinet reshuffle so the Guardian was mildly less full of nonsense. Polly and George, however, did appear, but so did the delightful Hadley Freeman so it wasn't a total disaster.

Anyway, I struggled into church just after ten as playgroup began. This is an hour and a half of gossip over babies and coffee with a ten minute guitar session in the middle. We don't do Christian songs which I'm convinced is right. It's not why people come and insisting on 'worship' in everything gives the impression that the church should only be doing church. Since school hadn't started some alumni turned up which was most delightful and my blues version of Down in the Jungle was surpassed only by the hopping bunnies and snapping crocodiles.

The jollyness was all cut short by a distressed visitor. The most disturbing thing about the parish is the number of entrapped women, some very visible, some less so. The most horrifying examples are the beggars on Edgware Road that are moved about by gangs, given injuries and have babies passed between them. This is a very direct form of slavery that is difficult to walk past. There is also the infamous Sussex Gardens, destination of the curb crawler, littered with 'vice'-cards and prostitutes, also often trapped in inescapable situations. Finally, however, there is another class, a couple of which I have had long conversations with in the last week. These are kept women. In some cases there are complications with visas, sometimes they have become financially completely reliant on some man, sometimes children are involved, sometimes heartbreak and manipulation. These women can be easily threatened with eviction, with being cut off, abandoned, and in some cases face extortion and violence. The vagaries of life can throw them between first class flights and outright imprisonment. Anger, depression, misery are all too evident. I am looking into what more I can do; there are some shelters and charities available, but often these situations are bound up with invisible ties in carefully constructed cages.

The life of clergy is necessarily ironic. This is not cynicism but often you are forced to shift from the utter seriousness of human misery to the banal or frivolous. So the shift to the business of the car park and administration is frustrating but inescapable. Mugs and stuffed horses will not order themselves, nor will classes for children for a Confirmation service that is really much sooner than is practical. Equally urgent was the task of putting together a Mattins service for the school staff tomorrow and a blessing for the children's first week at school on Sunday. Our faithful administrator was on hand to proof, print and staple but putting services together and formatting takes longer than you might expect.

Lunch had me back on the roof with a pizza before a 10 minute power nap, hoping to dream up a sermon for tomorrow morning. Back in the office the service sheet is finished; some colleagues email suggestions for a title of an edited collection due to be published next year. The back-log list of things I haven't done increases and I begin to feel quite stressed. I've been doing some work for a trust for the past few years and the accounts are due, I've a funeral to arrange, and begging letters for prizes from the local restaurants. On top of this I have an adult confirmation class tonight and a sermon to write for the morning. I finally get through to the stables who are on track for the end of the month, say evening prayer and get to Waitrose for catechesis snacks.

After scrambling to tidy the house the confirmation class goes quite smoothly, though I worry that I am talking a lot. The subject is the Bible and I explain something of how the canon was formed, the Four senses of Scripture, dealing with problematic texts and how we read the Bible, how it can help and how we orient ourselves as Christians by engaging with the stories. At times I wonder whether my own horizons have so fused with Scripture, after years of reading narrative theology that the class will think I'm mad. It is clear that they find Scripture hard to relate to. I surprise myself by realising how much I value Scripture as an encouragement and an orienting force in my life. Dangerous admissions for a liberal! The group is forcefully honest, which is fantastic, but they will not accept easy answers or empty platitudes. There is a real sense of wanting to make sense of what faith is about.

They are gone by 10pm and I change gears to write the school staff sermon listening to Chopin Nocturnes. It comes relatively quickly, having been sporadically on my mind for the past 24 hours. The staff are not always enthusiastic about church so I try and keep it brief and engaging. Will see how it goes tomorrow. I have not gone beyond snacks so I'm hungry going to bed but I'm pleased to have bought a Lynx Final Edition deodorant, which amuses me.

I slip into bed at 1.34am.

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