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More reflections on priesthood

Man wearing a hat with caption 'take a deep breath'
Cap available for purchase at Proceeds to charity.

There’s a great deal being written on the subject of priesthood at the moment. I guess ordination season will do that for you. Anyway, I just thought I’d gather together just some of my favourites.

I know some of these link lists tend to be massively long. When I see a list like that on other blogs, I instantly switch off and don’t read any of the suggested articles. So, here’s just a small handful from some of my favourite bloggers for your interest as and when you get your own chance to ‘take a deep breath’ and reflect.

All these pieces spoke to me. I hope they speak to you too if you decide to follow them up.

  • Jody reflects on whether you are a priest, or is a priest who you are and what it means to be yourself when you also hold an office/designation/role.
  • Rob hits the missional ‘wall’ and reflects on calling when things are tough.
  • Jody (again) shares a poem by Stuart Henderson.
  • Lesley reflects on what it means to be a priest.

Cap available for purchase at
All profits from the sale of this particular cap go to Stephanie Butler to help with her lung transplant expenses.

Guest writer: A reflection on priesthood

A photo of Tiffer Robinson at his priesting

It was my great privilege to be present last Saturday in St Edmundsbury Cathedral as my former theological college colleague, good friend, and occasional commenter on this blog, Christopher (Tiffer) Robinson was ordained priest. Many congratulations to him and his wife Amy – it was good to see him finally make it to his own big day.

Given this blog occasionally includes some of my own reflections on priesthood and to celebrate this occasion for my good friend, I’ve invited Tiffer to be my very first ever guest blogger on this website and to do some reflecting of his own now that he too is a ‘wannabepriest’ no more.

So over to Tiffer…!

“I was very nervous about being ordained priest.  This is for two interlinked reasons.  One is that I have an ecclesiologial conviction that we have got the diaconate wrong in the Church of England – being ordained a deacon one year and a priest the next (sometimes with only 9 months between them) has come to be seen as almost probationary, a mere hat-tip to the Christian value of servant leadership. Read more

The Rev-iew

A still image from the first episode of Rev

Last night saw the debut of BBC2’s new comedy drama ‘Rev’ with Tom Hollander. Tom plays Rev Adam Smallbone, a new Vicar in an inner-city parish, with a standard array of peculiar characters orbiting Hollander’s star. In rev-iewing it now (oho, see what I did there?), I guess I give it a cautious thumbs-up. 6.5 to 7 out of 10.

To deal with the criticisms first, it kind of annoyed me that they had to start the series off by him waking up with a hangover, then proceeding to swear regularly and smoke at every opportunity. It’s too easy and too fatuous a laugh to portray the sort of Father Jack (from Father Ted) school of priesthood, burnt-out and only able to smoke, drink and swear. On another level, however, I am not sure if my annoyance is with the programme or with my fellow clergy who I know behave just like that. Long before Rev Smallbone was seen on my screen, I’ve felt my hackles rising Read more

Top 10 tips for staying healthy as a Curate in a Vacancy

A screengrab from Google showing zero results for the search phrase "Healthy Vicar"

I received a call the other day from a colleague who is doing some research work on clergy well-being and asked me for my top ten tips on how to stay healthy as a Curate in a Vacancy. I’ve given it some thought and produced my list which, with his permission, I reproduce below. Oh, and by the way, that really is a screengrab from Google – I didn’t mock that up.

The early ones in this list are general tips for ordained life rather than specifically about a vacancy or being a curate. The later ones are more specific to the kind of situation I’m in now.

I have to say too, as something of a disclaimer, that some of these are more aspirational in my life right now than reality before anyone who knows me cries ‘hypocrite’!!! I do know that I need to work harder at Read more

Into interregnum

Graffiti that only makes sense at night
Graffiti that only makes sense at night

On Monday evening, my training Incumbent will be licensed to his new parish and thus complete his transition into his new post as Diocesan Director of Ordinands and priest-in-charge of a new parish about 20 minutes away from here. Even though he moved about a month ago and has been off the scene, in terms of ministry, for roughly the same amount of time, Monday marks the official start of ‘The Vacancy’ here since it is the moment he will no longer be Vicar here.

Of course, from my perspective, the last month has been the start of the Vacancy in practice since he’s not been around and I’ve been flying solo, albeit under the auspices and protection of the Churchwardens who, legally speaking, are in charge of the church during this period.

I was reflecting with my good lady wife the other day about how that month has felt. I can’t honestly say that I’ve felt massively busier. In conjunction with the Churchwardens, I’ve had to put some stuff down and be less involved and, in turn, have become more involved in other things that now need covering without the Vicar around.

Things are not busier. They do, however, feel heavier. Read more

Lashing oneself to the mast

An old drawing of a ship in a storm

With the end of the Summer, it’s more than high time that the articles started to flow here at ‘Wannabe’ and it’s been an interesting time of late. I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the RSS feeder that has been stacking up waiting for investigation, comment or just plain getting on with giving the thoughts of others whom I follow the time those thoughts most definitely deserve.

For me, the last few days have been all about those ordination vows once again.

I was present at Rochester Cathedral (along with pretty much everyone else it seems) on Saturday to say goodbye to Michael Nazir-Ali, outgoing Bishop of Rochester. The geography of the Cathedral (like many/most/all Cathedrals) is such that most of the action happened in the Nave in front of the massive organ and choir screen beneath it so that most people could see what was going on. However, I was sitting in the Quire with all the other clergy ‘blind’ to that action. Nevertheless, late in the service, the action transferred to the High Altar where Read more

Getting back to this priestly thing

Priest ordination photo

Incredibly, a month has passed since my ordination as priest within the Church of England and I can only humbly apologise that it’s taken me this long to get back on the case and talk further about it. Partly the delay has been because now that I have ‘magic hands’, I’m a touch busier than before. Partly the delay is because I’m leading a children’s holiday club next week and so I’m up to neck in gunge, bubbles, trumpets made out of plastic funnels and badge machines.

Even if I’ve not blogged about it, this priestly thing has been on my mind. There’s a lot to think about.

Firstly, Holy Communion. I don’t think that Communion is the number one fundamental thing about being a priest but I guess for many people, it might look that way because it is a fundamental task to which I’m now called. I’ve presided a handful of times so far and it’s such a privilege. I must admit I got slightly choked at two points in my first Communion service, the day after my ordination.

Read more

Wannabe no more

Photos and comment will follow but I guess I’m not a wannabe anymore.

This afternoon sometime around 4pm, I was ordained priest by the Rt Revd Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge, at Rochester Cathedral. As I and ten others knelt in turn and received the laying on of hands, the heavens opened outside and it poured with rain battering the roof of the cathedral.

It’s been a long day but a great day.

So, I’ll say no more for the moment except that I can legitimately say to you, reader, for the first time…

May God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Rent asunder

I had a surreal experience today in my last week of not being a priest.

I had the privilege of baptising a little girl this morning in our main morning service, which was great. This afternoon, I was walking down a road in our parish on my way to a funeral visit for a lady for whom I am officiating at the funeral in a couple of days time. What I hadn’t clocked before that moment was that the two families lived just a few doors apart.

As I passed the ‘baptism’ family’s house, there was a party going on in the garden, music and laughter. A big banner over their front door with the words ‘christening’ repeated many times colourfully on shiny paper. A few doors down, I came to my destination. No party here. Quiet, curtains closed, sombre. A family mourning the loss of a dearly loved mother and granny.

It felt odd to be torn in two directions so overtly on the same day. Of course, we ‘hatch’ and ‘dispatch’ on a regular basis but placed next to each other like this, it felt very odd indeed. I felt my heart being torn in two directions for the two families, as if in the middle of a tug-of-war.

It reminded me of something Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop, wrote about being a priest – albeit with a slightly different focus in mind:

‘In the minister’s one person the human spirit speaks to God, and the Holy Spirit speaks to men. No wonder he is often rent asunder. No wonder he snaps in such tension. It broke the heart of Christ. But it let out in the act the heart of God’ (Ramsey, 1985: 4)

the end of the beginning

Dave dressed as a deacon

At the risk of daring to veer off-topic at the present time by not mentioning CHP in a blog post (doh, done it again), the other big thing currently occurring in my life is that I’m t-minus 21 days from being ordained as a priest in the Church of England.

The contrast to last year couldn’t be more stark. Released by theological college in June and ordained in September, I was able to take some time to read a book or two about what being a deacon was all about. I sat down with the Ordinal and went through the helpful study guide that goes with it (sad I know, but I did) in fine detail making pencil annotations as I went. I went into the retreat in a good frame of mind and I was geared entirely for the change of ‘state’.

This year, of course, I’m now a serving member of the clergy, full-time in ministry (are there any clergy who aren’t?) and up to my neck in preaching, funerals, baptism preparations, leading services, trying to find time to study for a dissertation, leading the children and youth work, preparing for a holiday club in July and whatever else comes across my path in a given day or given week. So, the time and the opportunities to contemplate my navel and consider what it means to be a priest have been few and far between.

Nevertheless, I intend to do just such reflection Read more