Sev’n Whole Days

Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n,
I will praise Thee.

I am sure gentle reader, that every Friday, if you are like me, you wait with great eagerness for the weekly delivery of that great organ called the Church Times. And if you are indeed like me, you find yourself flicking through the front of the newspaper quite quickly to get to the best bits, which are all at the back. Chief amongst them are the job advertisements.

Now, I read these religiously every week, though not because I am looking for a new job. I read them because they give just as much a sense of where the church (particularly the Church of England) is at than all the words in the news pages of Jezebel’s Trumpet.

It is always interesting to know who has moved on from something, or to think about who might be suitable for somewhere else. There are Diocesan Mission Statements and slogans to mock on a weekly basis and there are adverts for clerical positions of all kinds.

And thus, this week, my attention was drawn to one which claims to be for a part time post. The advert comes bearing the imprimature of the local diocese and the parish in question is looking for someone to work for “4 days plus Sunday” for 0.6 of the standard stipend.

The parish sounds lovely and they say they will offer the succesful candidate “love, support and a warm welcome”. But just think about that again – 4 days plus Sunday presumably equals 5 days work a week. Four and a half if you want to split hairs. 

Now, a stipend isn’t remuneration for work done (as I’ll come back to below) but is does strike me as very odd that an advert was put out in the name of a diocese, which is looking for someone to work for a least three quarters of an English clerical working week for 0.6 of a standard stipend.

And in fairness, I should point out that this is just one of a number of jobs that appear in which there seems to be an expectation that clergy really wouldn’t mind being paid less than the church thinks they need in order to live.

One of the interesting things that the Scottish General Synod did when it met recently was to pass a number of measures aimed at improving clergy well-being. There were a number of motions brought forward by the Administration Board, following on from considerable work done by the Personnel Committee over the last couple of years.

Some of the things that they were addressing were things that I have previously raised as concerns at the Synod so I was particularly pleased to see the work that they’ve done come to fruition.

One of these was about clergy time off and it passed with overwhelming support.

In its simplest form, it was a recommendation that full-time stipendiary clergy work a five day week rather than a six day week.

When I was training for ministry, I was never particularly told that I had to work for six days a week. It was more that I was told that I needed to designate one day a week as my day off. Implicit in that was the idea of a six day week.

Now, clergy are often the butt of completely HILARIOUS jokes about how they only work one day a week but that is so often very far from the truth.

I remember speaking with one of the bishops with whom I’ve worked who always used to say that the trouble with most clergy was that they were far more likely to overwork than to underwork and that his trouble was trying to persuade them to take time the time off that they were perfectly entitled to take. The same bishop also used to say that in his view, the clergy were often the largest financial givers in most congregations – but we’ll maybe leave that to think about for another day.

Now, for those who don’t know, most clergy working within Scottish Episcopal Church are not employees and don’t have a manager. We are office holders rather than employees and that is pertinent to the question of how many days  one works.

The guidelines that the Synod was being asked to agree were just that – guidelines. The fact remains that the clergy all have decisions to make every week about how they will spend their time and one of the interesting things about the church is that clergy spend their time in highly diverse ways. Some spend their time primarily on local community activities, some give a lot more time than others do to pastoral work, some are engaged on administration a lot, some devote many hours of their time to their role as teachers and so on. There are as many ways of inhabiting the clerical role as their are clerics.

And that is kind of the point of the system.

After all, a stipend is not something you are paid in remuneration for the work you do. The stipend is there to stop you having to find work. The stipend is supposed to set clergy free – free to give their time to what they need to do in order to proclaim the kingdom of God.

People are sometimes surprised that bishops are not the managers of the clergy. Indeed, bishops are sometimes surprised to find that they are not the managers of the clergy. And Archbishops sometimes need to be reminded, as we saw earlier this week, that they are not the managers of bishops. 

The church is an interesting example of an obviously hierarchical organisation that isn’t a hierarchy and which possesses all the outward signs of a democratic system that doesn’t amount to being a democracy.

It isn’t difficult to understand the frustration that bishops sometimes have of being in a position of authority but not being able to direct and control. What you say isn’t necessarily what you will get. The relationships and working patterns between clergy are governed by far more than the code of canons or any set of guidelines about working practices. There are clerical courtesies and expectations that you begin to learn during your training and go on learning throughout your ministry which play just as significant a role in determining how one spends one’s time as anything written on any bit of paper anywhere.

Notwithstanding all that, I do warmly welcome the new guidelines that we agreed at Synod. They offer something helpful that will stop clergy feeling guilty if they work five rather than six days a week.

But it is rather striking this week that there’s a diocese in England which thinks that clergy should be paid 0.6 of a stipend for a time committment which looks rather similar to what one might be expected to work for 100% of a stipend in Scotland.

Sometime last year, I agreed with my full time colleague that we would move to working five rather than five and a half days a week. It had been my practice for a long time to take a day and a half off each week and we decided that two days was clear, easier to maintain and easier to understand. I was aware that we were likley to get the recommendation we did and wanted to try it out.

My experience is that I’ve got more done in my working life by working five days a week than in five and a half and I got more done in five and a half when I moved to that than I did when I tried to work six full days a week.

On five days a week, work-life balance feels a bit better though this is a strange time and leisure is not always a comfortable cushion to sit upon right now.

In this way of living, everything has to be offered up anyway – work and leisure, holiday and hard graft.

For however many hours and however many days, it is, of course, all for Jesus.  (And his mum). 

Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n,
I will praise Thee;
in my heart, though not in heav’n,
I can raise Thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll Thee:
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol Thee.





The Bishop of St Davids and the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Rt Rev Dr Joanna Penberthy is the 129th Bishop of St Davids. In tweets that came to light recently, she exhibited an antipathy to members of the Conservative Party which did not sit well with her position.  “Never, never, never trust a Tory” is not what people expect to see a bishop tweeting.

Once these tweets came to light, there was a considerable brouhaha which seemed to die down when she apologised and deleted her twitter account.

Now, I happen to think that Bishop Joanna’s tweets were not compatible with her role. I work in a congregation which has political activists in it from time to time of all persuasions and I have had no trouble working and worshipping with them all. I think that she was right to apologise and to make sure that the tweets in question were removed from view.

One does not need to go very far to realise that I do not have much truck with the policies of the Conservative Party. I have, after all, stood against Tory candidates in several elections. I am fairly obviously of the view that engagement with public political discourse is appropriate (if indeed not sometimes necessary) for those who hold prominent positions within the churches. As it happens, I am now a floating voter and not a member of a political party though I do strongly encourage others who are members of political parties to engage fully with them.

One of my frustrations about the manner in which Bishop Joanna has expressed herself is that she will now find it very difficult to comment negatively on that which should legitimately be criticised about government policy.

Policy is the key to the nature of appropriate political discourse I think. For my money, it is generally fair enough to criticise policy and generally not OK to criticise someone’s personality or core identity. 

So, for example, my view is that it is legitimate to criticise this government’s manufactured hostile environment towards refugees (and now, it seems, all those trying to settle in this country). That policy is cruel. I would go so far as to say it is unchristian. Indeed, I have gone so far as to say such things, from the pulpit, in the newspapers and online.

I have little doubt that Bishop Joanna would agree with me. However, she is now so far on the back-foot that she will struggle to be able to articulate any coherent opposition to wicked government policies for a very long time.

Bishop Joanna did get it wrong. However, she did apologise and sought to make amends. Though I think it will be hard for her to do so, I hope that she is back on social media soon and that she will be able to make her points in ways that hit home and which do not lead to her being silenced.

Now, all this would have been fading away, had not the Archbishop of Canterbury interfered in the matter. It is reported today that he has written to the Secretary of State for Wales expressing the view that he was “truly sorry” for Bishop Joanna’s comments.

This has now led, very rightly, to outrage being expressed online about the Archbishop of Canterbury interfering in a matter about which he has no jurisdiction. He has no business apologising for what bishops in Wales say in public. 

Apart from anything else, no archbishop is going to survive the mental gymnastics required if they hold themselves responsible for what every bishop in the Anglican world thinks or says.

The complaint will now be made by some that people are focussing on Archbishop Justin’s comments and forgetting about the “offence” of Bishop Joanna’s comments.

And that is, quite rightly, exactly what people are doing.

Bishop Joanna and the Archbishop of Canterbury have both made statements which are incompatible with their office.

Bishop Joanna has apologised and those who do have jurisdiction in this matter seem to think that her apology is sincere. Her twitter sins should be forgiven. Archbishop Justin has not apologised for his comments.

The more he intervenes in the running of other provinces, the more difficult his job becomes.

The Archbishop of Canterbury hath, as the badge says, no jurisdiction in this Realm of Scotland. The Archbishop of Canterbury hath no jurisdiction in this matter in the Realm of Wales either.