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Vicars only work one day a week!

By Elaine Bardwell - Posted on 23 October 2010

Some of the congregation here at St M's said my introduction on this website is too much like an essay on the Work and Office of a Priest  - so here is a very different sort of piece on what I did last week which will give visitors to this page of our website a little peek into what this Vicar did outside taking the Sunday services.
Monday and I get up at 6.45 as usual (but you need to know I am not naturally an early riser) and arrive in church ready to celebrate the feast day of St Luke the Evangelist with a quiet Eucharist taken by my colleague David Platt - 4 of us are there altogether and it is a wonderful way to begin the day. Just as well because when I try to check the parish email I can't log in - our internet provider has just 'upgraded' our service and of course it is worse. Let's hope there's nothing urgent awaiting me.
It is week 2 of Oxford University's Full Term so I toddle off to St Stephen's House to teach a small group of first year ordinands some New Testament Greek (you should read my Introduction on this website to understand why I do this) followed by lunch and then off to Ripon College, Cuddesdon where I teach two sessions. In the first session some basics are given to the BA First years and in the second session  I get to read John 2 in Greek with the Second Year BA group. I get home at 5.45 exhausted but happy. The email is working again so I catch up with a few messages. Then Jackie, one of our Church wardens arrives and we are off to the Social Committee meeting to make sure we have sorted out the jobs for the various social events coming up. Home again by 9 pm to catch up at the desk but I fall asleep over the computer keyboard and wake up to find lots of open windows on the screen - so go to bed.
Tuesday and I take the precaution of getting up a bit earlier at 6.30am because today is bread delivery day - only 1 sourdough loaf and we need 4 - I'll send out a quick email to those concerned - no internet connection let alone email; aargh! Have I sold my soul to modern technology? I load the car with the other loaves and the new office inkjet printer which is replacing the laser printer which rapidly eats up its very expensive toner cartridges at the rate of about once a day it seems (actually we seem to have to shell out about £200 alternative months on it). All is delivered to church and I make it to St Stephen's House to say the 8am Mass for St Frideswide, patron of our city and the University. Back home again, still no internet. I set about resetting the computer, the router, the cable joy but now I have to stop and meet with the Chair of our School Governors to go through some documents and write a letter to the Diocesan Solicitor to sort out a lease. Back to troubleshooting the internet connection - I try the reset routine one more time and at midday hurray! We are connected. Now have just about enough time if I am quick to notify the sourdough loaf customers and ask if we can get rest of our delivery from our supplier but no time to check any responses. Off to Cuddesdon and the first years are treated to the excitements of the Greek Definite Article. Then to the dentist for a filling and as I step outside the surgery numbed and pleased to escape, I not only get rained on heavily but hailed on too - thank you, Lord. I make it back in time for Evening Prayer and then it is time to go with my colleague David Paterson (not to be confused with David Platt who is on retreat now until Thursday evening) to our local pub for our staff meeting. Alison our LLM (Reader in any other Diocese) joins us on her way back from work. We enjoy our drink and share lots of pastoral news about people who need our prayers and support at the moment plus bring our diaries up to date. Miraculously our missing sourdough loaves await me in the porch. I let the relevant people know - I will take the loaves down to church tomorrow.
Wednesday - are you still with me? Late start at 6.50 am and in church for Morning Prayer at 7.30am. Home to put final polish on what I must do today. At school by 10am and treat our youngsters to the intriguing parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. David Paterson teaches them 'Walk in the Light' and we all enjoy what we thought was going to be Beethoven but turned out to be a piece by Albinoni (CD switch had taken place clearly!) for our exit music. Straight to church for our 11am Eucharist, quick cup of coffee and off in the car with David Paterson to our Deanery Clergy Chapter meeting at St Mary's, Barton. I drop David off and go on to the Crematorium to conduct a funeral for what was clearly a lovely lady of 90 years. She had had an interesting life and leaves behind her a wonderful and talented family. I found the Chapter in church getting to grips with what underlies Anglican ethical thinking which was very stimulating. David Paterson and myself had quite a chat on the way back. It was worth missing lunch for! I was then verbally assaulted in the church car park because I had apparently parked my car in the way of an irate Dad who wanted to turn his car round quickly - I blame TopGear myself for his driving style or should I say lack of it? Home to deposit my cassock then back out for Evening Prayer. I went round to visit a family in the parish and they invited me in for some tea and the leftovers of their supper which was very welcome indeed. Home by 8.30 pm and got into parish email box at the third attempt. Did not get through all the messages before bedtime though.
Thursday - I slept through the alarm and if you have kept up with me so far you probably won't be entirely surprised! At my desk by 9am to catch up with a few things such as ordering some liturgical resources for the church and also ringing the Emergency Food Bank about picking up from church the food (mostly tins) we had collected for the school harvest service last week. Off to St Stephen's House for the final Greek class of the week with the first years then lunch and then home to prepare for tonight's PCC meeting - I shall be chairing it so needed to gather up all the papers for the various items, check the minutes and add in a few extras such as the English Heritage report turning us down for listing - we are a 1930's derivative building apparently - though we are not entirely convinced this is accurate - and though our carvings are good they aren't anything that special (code for not by Eric Gill?)  and Leon Underwood who was the artistic director and painted our frescoes, is not quite famous enough. What this means is that we have a freer hand when it comes to repairs etc. but it also means expense as we don't qualify for any grants and have to pay full VAT on all our bills - and VAT has just gone up. Still the meeting goes well. We are now up to date with all our CRB checks and the Safeguarding requirements of the Diocese, several minor repairs are in hand and recent social events have raised £250 + for the church funds. We are doing OK and some interesting things are planned for the near future. We agree to move forwards with a photo board of key people in the congregation to help visitors and newcomers. I promise I really will bring content on the website up to date and report to the police that lead has been stolen from the church roof though precisely when we don't know. Home just after 9.30pm and I am not even going to try and sit at the desk but make some cocoa and off to bed for as much as I can read of Dark Fire by C J Sansom before I fall asleep.
Friday is my day off and I sleep in late finishing breakfast by 10am. I pump up the tyres on my bike and cycle into town to do a few routine things like visit the bank, deliver the letter with enclosures to the Diocesan Solicitors and treat myself to an hour's visit to the Ashmolean Museum before cycling home for lunch. I was very kindly given a copy of From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple yesterday by one of the PCC - a book I have wanted to read for some time and so after lunch I sit on the sofa and snooze and read. The evening is spent ironing an unholy mountain of shirts whilst listening to the Woman's Hour podcast on my iPod. This will be one less cause of stress next week at least...
Saturday and given that last week was one of the busiest I don't get up in too much of a hurry and take time over breakfast before settling down with the computer at 10am. I do the usual things of going through post , email and other items awaiting my attention so as to sort out what needs to be done and in what order. I prepare the pewsheet for tomorrow and send a draft to tomorrow's preacher, David Paterson. I have a parish magazine article with photo about the bread hub to forward to him in his role as our editor which I send on too. Next I prepare the weekly circular email which goes to the congregation members with up to date notices and what is happening this week. I finally manage to update the content on the website and now I must write my article for the parish magazine, present a companion piece to the bread hub item and produce the November calendar for the back page. Looks as if I will be at the computer until late this evening. At least the (Antidoron) bread we bless for our children and other non communicants has already been delivered to me and I have cut it up and frozen it. Must remember to take it out at breakfast time tomorrow...
If you have read this far you will see that my life is more like The Rev than The Vicar of Dibley. There is always a lot going on and there is always something else to do but it's not all stress and busyness. Over the past week everyday has been a good day in many ways. The rhythm of Morning and Evening Prayer anchors the activities of every day in 'that peace which the world cannot give', the students, parishioners and school children bring encouragement and support not just problems. Even with serious and sad events such as hearing of critical illness or conducting a funeral there is the knowledge of doing something worthwhile to help others along. So, far from being cut off from the world, I am in the thick of things and God is there in all of it. Tomorrow is Sunday - proverbially the only day of the week I do any work - it will begin with the Sung Eucharist - the main church event of the week and it will set me and the rest of the congregation up spiritually for the following six days. Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me - not just on Sundays but every day. 



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