The clergy dog collar, which looked so very weird a couple of months ago, is starting to feel more comfortable. I like my dog collar, it’s useful, I understand it and it clearly tells people who I am and what I’m about. Yes, sometimes I get funny looks and one person on a bus in Liverpool did literally point at the couple walking down the street hand in hand wearing dog collars. But all in all, the dog collar is really good.
I was surprised, therefore, to feel relieved to not be in a collar for a week, and to find that my chest felt physically lighter without it. Walking through the New Wine site, I commented to my vicar boss how light I left without it. Having spent a month in a dog collar most days so that I could get used to it, I think it did me some real good to leave it in Formby for a week. But I have been thinking about why this is.
Since starting this new job, I’ve been concentrating on getting stuff done and writing lists and getting things sorted. I have lists of people to see, admin to sort and a pile of books to read. In and amongst the lists and wanting to start well, I’d almost overlooked the fact that I am called, and paid, to be. There’s a subtle difference between doing the deacon stuff and being a deacon. Sitting and being as Poppy, a daughter of God, is an important part of the job which I had been too busy to give much thought to. Not that I haven’t been praying, because I have, but I think subconsciously I had started to turn my vocation into a series of lists and timetables, which are actually only a small part of it. With the pressures of Parish left behind alongside the dog collar, I had an opportunity to really listen to God.
Even in the midst of the busy and chaotic week at New Wine, I felt myself coming back to myself and to God, as has happened so many times before. I think there is a constant cycle of returning home, and learning about ourselves in the Christian faith, so why would this be any different in ministry? We are all on a journey of constant learning if we allow ourselves to be, and that learning definitely shouldn’t stop at ordination! So one of my first lessons in ministry is this: focus on being rather than doing. Because if I cannot make time to sit and listen to God, to pray and read the Bible, then how can I expect anyone else to? Sure, we have busy and fast paced lives. There is always stuff on the To Do list, and the job is never truly done. But I am so grateful for the reminded that I do not need to feel guilty about setting aside my tasks and just being with God for a little while.
One morning we were challenged: “Who woke up and looked at Facebook this morning? Who woke up and read their Bible this morning?” This is something that really struck me, because I often scroll through Facebook to wake myself up and to get my brain working. But how much better would it be if I used that time more wisely? Since I got back, I have been trying to read scripture before I go to bed and as I wake up. Blurry eyed and with a lot of yawning I have been trying to make my way through Genesis. It doesn’t always work, sometimes I forget, but it’s the start of trying to turn a bad habit into a good one.
I think this lesson was perfectly timed. As wedding planning moves into its final stage, I pick my dissertation back up to complete my final draft, and I start to look to my first Christmas ordained, the need to be is more important than ever. The lists are never ending, but taking time to catch our breath and feel God’s presence is something that I’m going to prioritise. In collar, out of collar, on duty, off duty, at the front of Church or sat alone in my study, I am first and foremost a Christian, a daughter of the creator of the universe, and in him, I live and move and have my being.