I received a call the other day from a colleague who is doing some research work on clergy well-being and asked me for my top ten tips on how to stay healthy as a Curate in a Vacancy. I’ve given it some thought and produced my list which, with his permission, I reproduce below. Oh, and by the way, that really is a screengrab from Google – I didn’t mock that up.
The early ones in this list are general tips for ordained life rather than specifically about a vacancy or being a curate. The later ones are more specific to the kind of situation I’m in now.
I have to say too, as something of a disclaimer, that some of these are more aspirational in my life right now than reality before anyone who knows me cries ‘hypocrite’!!! I do know that I need to work harder at looking after myself but at least Lent is just around the corner and a good time for a bit of a re-assessment.
Finally, I’d love to hear your top tips in the comments below. So here is my list:
- Eat decently and get good amounts of sleep. Do something to have a level of fitness even if you couldn’t pass for a Butcher’s dog. Look after yourself and your physical needs.
- Have a Churchwarden (or preferably two) who genuinely care about your well-being and aren’t afraid to tell you to go home and do something else other than church work.
- Get out of the Parish without a dog collar on at least once a week. You need to see there’s a world beyond your patch and you need to do it just as you, not in role (and yes I know priesthood is a calling).
- You gotta have a hobby. Have something you love and which you do regularly in your free time which has nothing to do with the parish and don’t feel guilty when you spend time doing it.
- Make sure you have free time and make sure you take your day off.
- If you’re married, have a ‘date night’ once a week. It doesn’t mean you go out every week, but just make time for each other even if it’s just slobbing out with a DVD and a pizza.
- Whether you’re in a relationship or not, spend time with good friends. Don’t neglect those who know you best.
- As a curate in a vacancy, enjoy the fact that you can fly solo and be creative (within certain limits). An Interregnum is a great experience and can be great fun. While the cat is away, the mouse can play. Recognise too, however, that you won’t have it all sorted and you are still a Curate. Learn from other more experienced clergy and cultivate the opportunity to listen to their wisdom.
- Remember that you are just a Curate. You’re not the Vicar and you’re not responsible – the Churchwardens have that on their plate.
- Rebuff all attempts to make you the next Vicar and don’t let such people massage your ego. Chances are that it’s not a comment on your ability but a statement about their fears for the future. They would rather have the Curate they know, than the Vicar they don’t.