Time, Miles and Community Pulse – anticipating Self-Supporting Ministry

Much time and many miles will soon be spent passing this spot on the A30.

Much time and many miles will soon be spent passing this spot on the A30.

There are eleven miles between home, and the boundary of the parish in which I will serve as a self-supporting curate. The expense of this travel will, I am led to believe, be met by my Diocese. Once at the parish boundary, my expenses will be met by the parish. In terms of time, it’s a minimum of 20 minutes drive between home and church, but that’s with almost no traffic on a Sunday morning. On a weekday to make Morning Prayer at 9am I anticipate needing to leave home about 8.15am. If there’s an accident on the M3 and the traffic’s all backed up on the A30 between here and Basingstoke, it could take me hours!

I think family life can cope though main meals may need even more flexibility than at present, and I will not be be nipping home between parish duties to pop the washing on, and moves are afoot to provide me with a ‘bolt-hole’ in the parish between ‘duties’, because losing too much useful time to travel was one of my greatest concerns about accepting this curacy as a self-supporting minster, and there is no parish office. I’m led to believe there’ll also be a mobile phone that will make me contactable whilst ‘on the hoof’, but which I can importantly also switch off on my day off etc.

There’s also an issue I think, about how as a minister who doesn’t live in the community she seeks to serve, I will be able to get to know it, to understand what makes it tick, and pick up on the little nuances of life that alert you to signs of trouble, both practical and spiritual. Hospitality is important to me, and it’ll be well nigh impossible in it’s traditional sense, and my ‘bolt-hole’ should I believe stay sacrosanct. I guess there’s the church kitchen, but no comfy chair to offer. Not living in the parish may have certain advantages: I shouldn’t get parishioners randomly knocking on my door (and as I was told today by a wise clergy friend, that’s not what a curate’s there for), but in some ways that’s also a disadvantage; will I miss hearing the pulse of the community and parish? I intend to use what few local shops there are, especially the butcher and bakehouse, but will that be enough?

So, whilst I think we’re putting in place sensible mechanisms to enable ministering outside of the parish I live in, I’m worried that there may be problems engaging with the community. What have I missed? Are there other issues of this nature that I can pray and plan round?

If you have any thoughts, I’d appreciate the wisdom of others who engage in self-supporting (non-stipendary) ministry at a reasonable distance from the community they serve, or have seen SSM at work in their own community.

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About ramtopsrac

Church of England Ordinand, child of God, daughter of the New Forest, wife and mother.
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5 Responses to Time, Miles and Community Pulse – anticipating Self-Supporting Ministry

  1. minidvr says:

    For the years from 2009 to 2013 I engaged in Lay Ministry in a parish, 54 miles away from my home. While I was in the parish two days a week, sometimes more and on Sundays, it was a huge drain on time, travel, wear and tear on me and my car. But I thrived on it. Fortunately, the Benefice supported my travel by paying the first 12 miles, which helped, but never met the full cost.

    But the issue that I encountered was that it took me substantially longer to become embedded in the community than I’d anticipated. Possibly two years before I knew everyone in our congregations, let alone those who lived and worked in the five villages – and to this day, I probably only got to know about 10% of the non-churched in any meaningful way.

    The privilege for me was to be given a particular role of visiting care homes – taking Holy Communion by extension which was a huge boost to my experience of the community, as many of the residents had family in the villages, so I got to meet them alongside their parents or relatives.

    Leaving those communities at Christmas was a huge wrench and I still miss getting up on Tuesday mornings to go for my Parish Day, Holy Communion, Staff meeting and a visit to one or other of the care homes or just doing other business such as admin, accounts or planning. I’d got used to it, and loved it, but things change and it was a practical impossibility to continue.

    Now, my bank balance is healthier and I’m gradually working with my new parish (one church – one priest) which is proving to be a delight. I have to start the exploring a vocation all over again, but that starts next month, and hopefully with training on a Foundation course to start in September.

    I’m getting to know people a lot quicker as Ron one of the church wardens is determined to introduce me to every single person – I said that I couldn’t hope to remember all of their names, and he wisely said “but they’ll all know yours” which is a good start.

    I’ll be praying for you as you struggle with managing and balancing and walking the tightrope to some extent, swaying this way and that, but steadfast and foot sure on the path to a vibrant and valid ministry in the new parish and eventually in the wider church. :)

    • ramtopsrac says:

      Thank you, an interesting insight from working at a much greater distance from a parish. Thankfully, as with your new context, this is a one church/parish context, though I suspect from map with different feels to specific pockets of population. No community is or should be homogenous, but learning the different feels of different bits will be interesting.

  2. pamjw says:

    In some ways it’s similar to being a Methodist Minister with a huge patch. My furthest away church was 15 miles (actually there were 2 that far away in different directions…), and I was minister in 5 communities I didn’t live in. You are talking about the right things. I always popped into the local shop, whether I needed anything or not. The other brilliant way to get into a community is the school. Being visible there means you are known to so many families.

    For me, the driving time was good reflecting time – but you know how beautiful that area is!

    The fact that you are aware of the issues and asking the questions shows your pastoral heart for the people. You will be great :)

    (and on a very practical level find out asap whose toilet you can pop in and use without it having to be a long visit :))

    • ramtopsrac says:

      Thanks Pam. The church is open & has loos (& I guess I might have a key), whilst my bolt hole will also come with access to one I am told.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I guess you can tell I am desperate to get on with it!

      • pamjw says:

        You get to the stage where you just want to get on with it – especially once you know where you’re going :)

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