Who is the happiest of the them all?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall….
Who is the happiest of them all?

Turns out the answer is clergy.

According to the BBC, the government is beginning to include measures of happiness in what it attempts to do and part of that has been trying to quantify who the happiest people are in society. Turns out the answer at the top of the list is “vicars/priests”.

I’m not at all surprised. Oh, but there’s so much to say about it – not least the fact that I know plenty of clergy who are very far from happy. My hunch is that those who are unhappy in this job tend not to be unhappy about the essence of the job and are frustrated because they can’t vicar enough to fulfil the hopes that they once had. (My apologies for verbing the noun in that last sentence).

The list itself is fascinating as it lists job categories by average income too. Second most happy people are CEOs bringing in lots of dosh.

Here’e the top ten happy categories:

(Rank) Occupation Mean income (£s)
(1) Clergy 20,568
(2) Chief executives and senior officials 117,700
(3) Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture 31,721
(4) Company secretaries 18,176
(5) Quality assurance and regulatory professionals 42,898
(6) Health care practice managers 31,267
(7) Medical practitioners 70,648
(8) Farmers 24,520
(9) Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors 32,470
(10) Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors 35,316

I’ve been asking myself why it is that clergy come out at the top. Some combination of the following factors is probably at work:

  • Very high degree of autonomy – notwithstanding bishops, presbyteries and other forms of oversight, clergy have to be very self-motivated.
  • We are in the joy business.
  • There’s a relatively high level of vocational testing before you get in – the churches try to select those who are most likely to cope with a very odd life.
  • High satisfaction levels around being with people in trauma and emotional need – you know you are doing good very often
  • High level of variety in daily life.
  • It is a life not a job.
  • Inner calling is a greater motivator than money – you don’t go into it for more money.
  • Lots of opportunity to develop a life where internal reflection allows you to work through your own stuff.
  • The job involves telling people they are loved and learning how much you yourself are loved too.
  • You get to walk into places and situations where others are frightened and help them deal with their fears.
  • Worship.

I’ll write sometime about why clergy are not happy. But for today, I’d be interested in any further comments about why clergy are happy.


Do you believe god has a unique plan for us all?

My interlocutor from yesterday has asked me another very good question on twitter.

As I discussed your blog with other Christians its led me to another big question Do you believe god has a unique plan for us all?

The first thing to note is that Mark is very good at asking questions. I came to meet him because he was wanting to do a video interview with me on the usual topic. What made it memorable was that his questions then were so much more thoughtful than they generally are in such circumstances. Generally when I do those kind of interviews I get asked the usual questions and reply with the usual answers, however Mark’s interview was much more interesting than that. So, I know he asks good questions.

So what about God’s plan for us all.

Well, by and large I sit light to the doctrine of providence, which is what we are talking about. Like yesterday, I’d have to say I don’t believe in it on a superficial level. However the complicated thing is that I think that is sometimes what life feels like. However, we must beware of mapping our own feelings onto a presumption of God’s intent. Life is much more interesting than that.

Generally speaking I find it easy to talk about providence in any given moment but not in terms of a life-story. I find it easy to think about what God would have me do in this choice or that choice. I find it much harder to make sense of the idea that there is a grand plan and that somehow either God needs to push me through that plan or I need to find my way into that plan in order for the universe to work.

I tend to be able to say much more about vocation than providence. Vocation is where we have a hunch about the direction of life which is then confirmed by the outside world. The hunch without the confirmation isn’t a vocation, it is a notion.

Suppose someone wants to be a Doctor and has the passion and the committment to try to do it. If they don’t get accepted onto a doctoring course or don’t pass enough exams or for some reason don’t make it to the end, then the truth is, their sense of vocation has not been affirmed by the world and without that affirmation it ain’t going to happen.

Things get a bit more complicated when folk introduce God into that kind of conversation. After all God is supposed to be the great authority figure that none can argue with.

However, wise institutions don’t let people become doctors (for example) simply on the premise that they believe that God wants them to do that. They still need to pass their exams and so on before that vocation will be affirmed, whether or not they express it in religious terms.

So, do I believe that God has a plan for us? Not in the simple sense, no. However I do believe it often feels as though that is true or even worse, should be true. That does not make it so. It does perhaps make it confusing.

We have general hints about God’s intent for our lives – “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God” ought to be a good enough vocation for most of us. However, it doesn’t answer the question of what career I should follow.

Those questions are best answered by looking at our passions and desires, our hopes and our dreams.

Do I believe that God dances around in the midst of our passions and desires, our hopes and our dreams?

You bet I do.