Friday, January 26, 2007

which bird do you fancy?

My former boss used to tell me I was 'swan-like'. Sadly not due to grace or beauty. But because I always appeared calm and in control, regardless of how much my legs were flapping wildly underwater.

I can appear unruffled in most situations, regardless of how I feel. I can hide annoyance and distress when diplomacy so requires.

But is this a good thing?

Something that makes me really angry is when people act as if another person is inferior to them. Because they're young; female; not ordained; unattractive (in appearance or personality); too attractive (ditto); vulnerable; quiet; loud; of differing views to the majority; etc. Usually, this (very common) behaviour manifests itself in subtle ways. I think I usually spot it. And it really irritates me. (The only thing that gets me more angry is seeing someone being bullied.) But I tend to keep my irritation to myself.

Something that makes me really distressed is when relationships get hijacked simply because people insist on putting one another into categories. They say to themselves (something like): "I have put you into this 'box', I have defined you, and now, regardless of what you say and do, I will interpret it all according to my definition. So there's no way we can actually relate properly to one another."

This seems to be what's going on in so many of the church's rows at the moment. People don't actually interact, they just judge one another and let that judgement guide everything they do, and so things get sourer and sourer. And it happens all the time on the 'micro' level as well. In our friendships and workplaces.

Question I sometimes ask myself is, is it better to be a swan? Or to flap around like an ostrich in protest? Has anyone ever taken an ostrich seriously?

Friday, January 19, 2007


I haven't been to the office today.

There is an explanation, which I'll summarise:

Wind caused chaos with trains last night. Had nightmare journey home during which coat was ruined and life almost lost. Still extensive problems with transport this morning - I had to walk two miles to an 830 dentist's appointment, for which I was late (healthy teeth, though, hurrah!) Bus back to train station. By this point I was shattered and annoyed. Still delays with many trains. Phoned office to say I'd be later than expected. Was told not to worry about coming in if it was difficult. Decided to take this gifthorse right on home with me and stop even thinking about trying to catch a train.

Have done stuff at home, though, honest!

There is something so wonderful about a day out of the office when everyone else is there and you know you should be too. The resulting glee can be felt even when you're ill, but then it's diluted by general misery and inability to savour fully the sensations of bonus time.

It's impossible to decide whether one SHOULD make the extra effort to get to work on such occasions. There aren't really any guidelines to go by: there's always someone who will tell you to chill out about a bit of time off and someone else who looks at you with bemused concern because they'd never contemplate cheating the system in such a way. I know I'd have been grumpy and useless at work and probably spent so long getting back home again at the end of the day that my ensuing rage would have ruined the weekends of all with whom I came into contact. But I know I could have got there without too much trouble. I know that's what they pay me for.

Aaaaah. Such moral struggles. Better calm my nerves with another small snack and a cuppa.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

am I a freak?

Ok, so this is going to be one of those entries where I waffle incessantly because I'm too emotionally involved with the subject. Sorry. Bear with me in my strangeness....

I frequently wonder about working for the church in a 'minister' type way. For one reason or another, the issue has come to the front of my mind again this week. Whenever that happens, I try to act on my thoughts in some small way. That seems a good way of testing whether or not they are sensible.

It's difficult to know what action to take this time, though. I am having mental wrestles with the whole issue of being a 'minister' (I shall use that as a generic term for priest, vicar, minister, whatever). My problems fall into three categories: 1. My motives. 2. The job. 3. The church(es).

Let's deal briefly and inadequately with these problems.

1. I am impatient, arrogant, insecure and self-obsessed (no better or worse than the average person, probably) and am afraid of letting these qualities lead me into 'the ministry'. I know that minister-type jobs falsely appear the quickest way to get people to listen to what I have to say and to make myself feel significant as a Christian. I tend to think I am terribly wise and important and want people to understand that - I would enjoy the status and respect that being a minister provides. I hate feeling unnoticed and unloved and it is easy to believe that being a minister would change all of that. I like to be the centre of attention. I want to be heard. I think I can do things better than other church leaders that I see in action.

All of these temptations are much more subtle than I can express here, where they sound obvious. But I have seen too many vicars etc who are in their jobs for the wrong reasons.

2. I do not get the whole concept of becoming a vicar/minister whatever. Why is this kind of work granted the worthy title of a 'calling' instead of being a job, like any other? Why is there such a distinction between clergy and 'lay' people at all? Why don't churches just employ people to lead them who have the right skill set, instead of this bizarre scenario where individuals feel 'called' by God and then training colleges/dioceses interview them and decide whether that calling is valid, completely independently of the situation in which they're actually going to work? Why is housing provided and controlled by the churches? Why are ministers expected to work crazy hours? Why are people who are ministers in large churches not trained in management, finance, PR etc? Why is it somehow ok for a minister to spend his time as he sees fit, pursuing the things that strike him as interesting or 'of God', while not actually being accountable to any manager or balance sheet? Doesn't the whole set-up encourage the kind of corruption that all of us are natually prone to as human beings? (Glory-seeking, laziness, irresponsility, workaholism....) And congregations suffer too, either abusing their leaders or fobbing off all responsiblity for the church on them because of the minister's strangely elevated role amongst them.

3. I can see no way of getting into the ministry without affiliating myself with one denomination over and above others. I was brought up Baptist, and think their ideology/theology makes more sense than any other I've come across. But I work for, have attended and also love Anglican churches. Their theology seems rather like a set of excuses that explain the way they happen to be.....but they seem better at actually getting things done well and at being proactive than any other denomination. Far too simply, one denomination has better ideals....the other has better results. I don't think one is superior to the other. And I don't want to have to explain to the 'recruitment' people why I want to be a vicar or a Baptist minister as opposed to working for another denomination. But I know that's a requirement of the recruitment process. And I know that part of the training you are given in any denomination is training to think 'our denomination is the best'.

I understand that a churchgoer has to be part of a particular denomination because that's how things work....but I can't see myself deciding that any church is 'the best'.

Despite all of this, I feel some kind of calling. I long to help people to get to know God and I don't seem to be able to get away from the idea of being some kind of church 'leader'....I just don't know quite where to go from here.

I am also afraid of the impact this kind of career would have on my husband, my future children and my reputation. It's all too complicated.

I'm going to have a beer.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Next year I'm 30....

Hello everyone and happy new year! 2006 has taught/reminded me that:
  • being married is very good
  • California has incredible scenery
  • churches get more confusing the more you think about them
  • I am a bit too obsessive about not getting fat
  • I enjoy public speaking...
  • ...but find it difficult to speak when in meetings
  • Daniel Craig is quite sexy
On a different note, I have been tagged. (See here for game details) by my husband. Below are some facts that I don't think many people know about me.

In return, I tag Joe, Lizzie, Caro, Danny (no blog yet!) and my Dad (Dad, have you got it going yet?)

Fact 1 - one of my favourite occupations is removing ingrowing hairs from my husband's upper arms
Fact 2 - I can (or could, when I was a journalist) write shorthand at 130 words per minute.
Fact 3 - I once interviewed Doris Lessing for the Birmingham Post and the piece was given a full page
Fact 4 - last night in bed I started moving my legs frantically as if cycling and exclaimed "it's really cool!"
Fact 5 - when I worked in Kenilworth I was once assaulted

I'm sorry that two of those are really me bragging. But I like bragging. And I never dare do it in conversation. (Perhaps this is the same for most people, resulting in almost every Christmas 'round robin' letter becoming an ode to the writer's annual achievements?)