Love Life Live Lent Wednesday of Week Four: say hello to your neighbours!

I was told once that as a vicar, if I didn’t have small children, I should get a dog, as I would need an excuse to be walking in the village without looking like I was just wandering around.  Probably good advice, though I’m not sure that I’ll want to replace the children with a dog when they get too old to be useful in casual pastoral ministry…

One of the joys of being a vicar is that I can smile and say hello to people I don’t know without them thinking I’m a nutter – or at least, if they do think I’m a nutter, it’s not because I smiled at them. This even sort of works in London (not that I go there very often, but I have tried it – smiling at people on the tube – and sometimes people even smile back).

One of the challenges of being a vicar is that when I do smile and say hello to people they often want to stop and talk, which is lovely, unless I’m in a hurry to get somewhere – so one allows time for these encounters.

And I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it?  Allowing time for your hello to become more than a hello is part of what makes the hello worth saying in the first place. It makes a walk down the street less predictable, getting anywhere takes longer and we may be drawn into conversations that are difficult or that demand more of us than we expected to give.  But on the other hand, we may make mew friends. make a difference (in a good way!) to someone’s day…

Saying hello may well be only step one but it could well be step one of a much longer, richer and more interesting journey.

Love Life Live Lent – Say sorry!

I emailed a wedding couple today, finally sending them their order of service, for which they had been patiently waiting some time.  I am sure I’m not the only vicar in the world who finds the administration of the occasional offices (baptisms, weddings and funerals) sometimes ‘slips away’ and that bits of paper and emails become buried under many other bits of paper and emails.

Hence my apology.

And I do feel better now.

I feel better not only because I said sorry, but because I made good on what I’d done wrong.  The happy couple now have an order of service, and this has no doubt reduced their stress levels and made them happy.

Sometimes an apology is enough on its own, especially if we really, really mean it. And sometimes it’s all we’ve got, if the thing we’ve done wrong has been and gone and there’s no way to ‘make it good.’

My big apology last week was for completely missing Offord Women’s Guild – they always have Evensong on the first Tuesday of the month, and I always take the service and deliver a short homily-type thing, and enjoy tea and biccies afterwards. But last week for some reason I spent most of Tuesday thinking it was Monday, and only realised halfway through the midweek Eucharist on Wednesday that I’d missed the Guild.  Nothing I can do at that point. But I did write an apology on a nice tasteful card (it happened to have a picture of the church on it) by hand, and hand-delivered it to the chairperson of the Guild, on Wednesday, even though the level crossing meant that it took half an hour to do so.  And it felt better then. Until I next forget something….

Because the trouble is that I apologise quite a lot.  Some weeks I seem to spend most of my time apologising for things that I have got wrong.  So much so that while I was emailing my wedding couple earlier today I happened to glance up and see that I still have last Lent’s ‘motivational sign’ stuck to the shelf in front of my desk: “Get your act together, Barrett!” it reads, in bright red pen.  Clearly my disorganisation is not a new problem. And clearly I can be heartily and miserably sorry for the ways that it gets in the way of the gospel (ie the ways that I get in the way of the gospel), for the ways that it lets people down (ie for the way that I let people down) and for the damage that it may do to the credibility of the church (ie the damage that I do to the credibility of the church).  And I can apologise till I’m blue in the face, but my apology, my penitence, is empty unless I have the desire and the means to do things differently, and genuinely prioritise and care for every single one of those things entrusted to me.

So, one last sorry: to everyone reading this who I have ever offended by my disorganisation, tardiness, or forgetfulness, I truly and sorry, and I truly am asking God to help me do things better.

So maybe this Lent, my ‘sorry’ can be less empty.  Maybe this Lent my ‘sorry’ will come with a genuine ‘please’ to God to help me get my act together.  I pray for myself and for all disorganised vicars everywhere that the Good Shepherd will seek out and save the things we lose track of…