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.