My training incumbent is now away on a three month sabbatical. Right from the first day of his absence, I have noticed my phone has rung quite a lot more often. I think the next three months will be good for me. My plan is to use this time to improve my organisational, admin and time-management abilities, and to make a strategic effort to increase my energy levels. After all, ordained ministry is a marathon and not a sprint! I need energy to focus on ministry and mission, and to be the person God calls me to be. I know I won’t function well in the long run if I don’t make some changes. These changes mainly revolve around discipline in the following areas: eating, exercise, leisure, prayer and study time, and sleep. My purpose in writing this blog post is to keep myself accountable to my intentions. Any readers are welcome to support me in this effort with encouragement and prayer!
Eating: My aim is to try and stop using chocolate as an instant energy and feel-good drug. I’m not saying that I’ll cut out chocolate completely, but I’m going to try to cease ‘using’ it any more. In addition, I’m going to try to eat healthier in general. I’m going to try to let the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ inform my choices!
Exercise: I know that exercise increases my energy levels and my sense of well-being; I just haven’t been prioritising it or making time for it. I’m going to try to do this more often. Fortunately, we live in an area that lends itself to walks, and this gives the added benefit of time with my husband, if we go walking together.
Leisure: A parishioner recently suggested that it’s arguable whether clergy should have a day off. This was casually said after I had conducted two funerals on what should have been my day off, at the end of what was a very busy week indeed. I suppose many parishioners aren’t aware of what this vocation actually means (or entails) in practice. That aside, I am not doing a very good job of keeping my day off. I’m very aware of this, and I’m hoping with improvements in other areas I will get better at sanctifying time off. I recently wrote an essay with a focus on personal and professional boundaries, and that was helpful, getting me to reflect on that very important issue.
Prayer and study time: I pray contantly. I study quite a lot, too. But I feel the need to be more disciplined and focused in these areas. It’s interesting that since my training incumbent has been away, I’ve been drawn back to the Common Worship Morning Prayer liturgy. Yes, it’s wordy, but I find it sets me up well for the day, and covers all the bases. The online version is great because the readings and prayers are all there for each day. I’m also working my way through Brian McLaren’s Naked Spirituality, in which he shares a simple yet effective discipline of connection with God. Regarding the study time, as a curate I’m supposed to have a designated ‘study day’, but this has never materialised for me. I think parish obligations have probably got in the way of this, because we have two churches. It’s my responsibility to make time for study, so I need to prioritise the need for it, especially now while I am a curate.
Sleep: This is related a bit to the ‘boundaries’ issue – like many people, I find it hard to ‘switch off’ at night and sleep. The concerns of the parish come to bed with me! I have made a concerted effort not to stay up too late (I used to be very bad at doing this), so that’s an improvement. In a way, it would be unusual if I never let things worry me, but hopefully, with the added exercise and changes in diet and attention to adequate leisure, sleep will come easier. Last night I took some mineral supplements – calcium and magnesium – which my mother says help her sleep. I had one of the best sleeps for a long time, so maybe there’s something in it.
Everything is linked. I hope my efforts in these areas will combine and build upon each other to give me more energy and ultimately that it will result in an increased ability to do the work God asks of me in ministry - in the parish, in family life and in my personal wholeness and well-being. If we want to participate in God’s new creation, we had better keep ourselves fit for purpose! I hope and pray that my training incumbent’s sabbatical helps both him, and me, along that way.
A prayer by John Cosin (1594-1672):
Be thou a light unto my eyes, music to mine ears, sweetness to my taste, and full contentment to my heart. Be thou my sunshine in the day, my food at table, my repose in the night, my clothing in nakedness, and my succour in all necessities. Lord Jesu, I give thee my body, my soul, my substance, my fame, my friends, my liberty and my life. Dispose of me and all that is mine as it may seem best to thee and to the glory of thy blessed name.