Falling when running

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Have you ever tripped over while running, or seen someone do this? There is a moment when you think you can keep going… where you are still running but you know that inevitably your feet won’t catch up and you’re going to land face first on the floor.

Confession time: I feel a bit like that in this ministry at the moment.

In my commercial life, I’ve held a great deal of ideas and concepts in my head and managed my workload by juggling and balancing priorities. Businesses expect us to be good at time management and to be efficient in everything we do. I’ve flourished in those environments.

As I finished ‘Vicar training’ and started here in the Colne Valley, I applied the same tools: holding lots of ideas, meetings, and important information in my head. However, last October I became overwhelmed with the amount of information I needed to keep track of. Thankfully I discovered and implemented a Bullet Journal. This was very helpful. It is a combination of task list, reflective diary, and planner that really got me back under control. It even helped me sleep better at night. Having a list of everything that I’m doing, and everything I have to do was helpful for two reasons: I was getting more done, but I could also see why I felt tired.

You all know the joke, “Vicar’s only work Sundays”, and you all know it isn’t true. My week is not spent in preparation for Sunday, I don’t spend hours planning Sunday services… worship on Sunday comes at the end of a busy week and if I’m lucky I’ve had a few hours to think about the sermon.

I love being with people. Worship on Sunday is something I really look forward to. I love spending time with you, growing in faith and in love of God. I love that we pray together, sing together, study the Bible together and share the symbolic and sacramental bread and wine of the last supper together. I love that you come to church and share this. I know some people feel they don’t need to go to church to be Christian, but I don’t know where else they get to spend time with other Christians. I love that we are intentionally trying to get to know God better, because we are the people of God. Plural: people. We were made to be in community, together with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit… which is the divine community. Church on Sunday for me isn’t a box tick, it is time with you sharing in the companionship of God. God breaks into our lives. Church has never been entertainment… which doesn’t mean it should be boring though. How I improve our Sunday worship is a challenge when I get so little time to focus on it.

However, to get back to the idea of a running person falling over…

This week I went to a funeral appointment. I had the privilege of spending two hours with a family discussing their mother/grandmother’s funeral service. When I got home, I discovered I’d gone to the wrong meeting. There was a different funeral, a different couple that I was supposed to have been to see. They were distressed that I had apparently ignored them.

Today I nearly missed the baptism of Emmeline in Lindley. My diary had a provisional time of 1pm sketched in. I only discovered last night that the baptism was at 10:30am. Thankfully I was there on time.

These two mistakes feel like a warning that I’m over-stretching myself. I feel like it won’t be long before I really mess up and land flat on my face (so to speak).

I don’t really know how to fix this. I don’t think there is anything you can do to help me. Our Churchwardens, Treasurers, PCCs and volunteers are already giving huge amounts of time and money to support and grow our churches. We have numerous people making sure that our cafes, Sunday school, faculty applications, safeguarding, data security, insurance, building work, first aid, fire safety, book exchanges, jumble sales and afternoon tea events go smoothly. I worry that we are all working too hard. I worry that we will all fall over. I worry that the good news doesn’t look so good when we are all left slightly frazzled and frayed.

I think what we are seeing is church growth. We are certainly seeing more people talking about God more often. We are certainly welcoming new people to church.

I was given an analogy by Carol earlier this week… she told me that our Vicarage garden had just starting to bloom with flowers when BOOM! Everything started to grow and this included the weeds… there was growth everywhere. Sadly, the growth we wanted was being swamped by the growth we didn’t want. The weeds are really coming up nicely, crowding out the flowers.

If this works as an analogy for church life, I wonder what the flowers of faith are, and what the fast growing weeds look like. How do I help you and protect you as your faith flowers and keep the weeds from your faith life. And how do I focus on the flowers in my own ministry and avoid spending too much time on other things.

Again… I don’t have an answer. I’m not sure there is one. What I hope is, that when I inevitably make a mistake, you (my sisters and brothers in Christ) will understand. As always I hold you in my prayers.

The Lord bless you and watch over you: may you receive peace and joy,

Graeme Holdsworth
Interim Vicar of Marsden and Slaithwaite with East Scammonden