Sunday, 30 June 2013

All Curates great and small

Christchurch, Oxford, Petertide, already 3 years ago
It's been Petertide. In the Anglican church people have been getting ordained. It's nearly three years since 'my' cohort came through, and some of us are already moving on and leaving Curacy behind like a sloughed off skin. 

For a long while after I got ordained I used to get very nervous in and around large groups of clergy. Is this what we look like? How odd. Am I really part of this group? How on earth must we come over to outsiders? I'm slightly better nowadays, though I still maintain a possibly unhealthy desire to appear 'normal' at all costs, whatever normal is.

The shock of a female in a dog collar, such that the unsuspecting villagers of Dibley received on the arrival of the fictional yet iconic Geraldine Grainger, is wearing off.
Female clerics can still sadly be seen as 'problematic', though some traditional folk seem genuinely delighted with the development: once on being introduced in the parish to an older gentleman, I was given a visual once-over and greeted with the words 'ah ha.....considerably better looking than the last one'.

We come in all shapes and sizes these days. Eventually the media clergy stereotypes (elderly, male, ineffectual) will give way to something much broader and more interesting.  Beyond Belief; Barriers and Bridges to Faith Today, published by LICC, is already ten years old, and even their research indicated that the person on the street with very little church connection is aware of old churchy stereotypes giving way to something new and exciting. 

There is some statistical evidence that the Myers Briggs personality 'types' of clergy have traditionally been towards the introverted and 'feeling' end of the scale, away from extrovert and 'thinking'. Perhaps that is changing.

The recent media interest in Notts vicar Rev Kate Bottley (left) who joyfully led her wedding couple in a disco dance after their vows, perhaps wants to celebrate the face of young, female extroversion in the church, a church which is still sometimes ill at ease with what is perceived not to be suitably restrained or 'dignified'.

Splendid at Ascot
So we're extrovert, we're introvert; we feel, we think; we're idealists, we're pragmatists. Some of us are shy and retiring; some are loud; some are blonde and curvy; some are scatty and scruffy; some are, frankly, splendidly sartorial. Is there a place in the church for the distinctly eccentric? I hope so, but the selection process being what it is, I am not so sure.

I have been wondering about longevity in all of this. As colleagues get new jobs and map their calling and their (for want of a better word) 'careers' together in a complex theological and practical web, I wonder what we need to maintain joy and spontaneity at the core. One of the worst clergy stereotypes
Clapped out clergyman in Pinero's
'Dandy Dick'
 is of the old timer - world weary, been at it for too long without significant encouragement; seen it, done it. He (or she? less likely) is not a good advert for the church. One of the scary things about being a 'professional' christian is the feeling it all depends on you. It can feel a bit draining. And is probably completely misplaced. 

So I'm a Curate (still). But I'm also me. Ordinary. Entirely dispensable. And off on retreat tomorrow to prove it. 
Happy Petertide.

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