Monday, 15 March 2010

Day 23 - A Duty and a Joy

One of the factors that makes full time Anglican ministry different from most other occupations is that a house is part of the package. The curates house, Vicarage or Rectory varies from place to place and part of the interview tour prior to accepting an appointment includes looking around the house. I have known only a few clergy who have turned down a job because the house is unsuitable for them and their family, because for most the calling to a particular place far outweighs the living accommodation. There is often little choice in the matter, except perhaps a new bathroom or kitchen and a different colour paint on the walls, so for most clergy the challenge of a new job in a new place is coupled by this dutiful acceptance to live in a house which they probably would otherwise not have chosen.

There are mixed blessings, most vicarages are large and so for many we live in houses we would otherwise not be able to afford to buy - families can be accommodated, and large gardens make great play areas for children. Those who like gardening can indulge their hobby, and the study can accommodate all those books we accumulate. Yet there is also a cost, large gardens take time to manage, large houses cost money to heat (no one pays for this), and the condition of each house varies from place to place and is dependent on a caring and responsive diocese. For the single person therefore the upkeep of a large houses can be an added burden. I have gritted my teeth on many occasion, spending each day off tending the garden, mowing the lawn, pruning countless rose bushes, just to keep on top of everything.

In a way, its all a mixed blessing. Like Brother Lawrence sought to find God in the busyness of the monastery kitchen, it is necessary to sense God in the things we are stuck with and feel constrained by. I am reminded here of those who act as carers for family members, those who have to cope with chronic or terminal illness, those who suddenly find themselves in tragic circumstances. There are often no choices. Yet, by offering these to God in gracious acceptance, somehow the light can shine through and be seen by others.

I am sometimes asked to pray with an individual or family in their new house, and I have prayed in each house I have lived in. We go into each room and ask God's blessing on all that takes place; that the house be welcoming, that people find hospitality, that friends are made and people comforted, and that all that is not good is kept out. I am sometimes struck by the warmth and hospitality found within a Rectory or Vicarage, particularly when the occupants have a desire to be good stewards of what they have been given and to turn the house into a home. God's light can indeed be found there.

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