27.1.11

Facebook and networks, Mother and priest

I have just joined 'Clergy mummies' over at Facebook which looks promising. It is the idea of the Rev Katie Tupling, who contributed to Mums The Word blog the other week. I think that these thoughts by Rosemary Lain-Priestley might speak into this.


... when I later considered taking on my own parish I felt I could only do it by significantly re-shaping people’s expectations of how a vicar might operate or taking a step back from the day to day care of my children.
Some clergy women have courageously done the former and women in all walks of life have skilfully managed the latter. Arguably fathers have always had to do it, but many have had wives who have made this possible and still others regret the sacrifices involved.
I genuinely rejoice in the achievement of those who live that particular juggling act, whilst choosing for myself a different way forward involving part-time and voluntary roles.
I now know numerous female clergy who are doing the same because they are perplexed by how to provide for pre-school children when your stipend doesn’t cover the cost of childcare, by the lack of part-time parish roles because two families cannot share one vicarage, and by how to construct a diary responsive to the needs of funeral directors and parishioners in crisis as well as your partner and children.
The Church has always sought to adapt its ministries to the needs and opportunities of the world around it. Traditional clergy jobs within parishes, cathedrals and chaplaincies are continually being reshaped by imaginative and energised priests. But some of us whose lives do not dovetail with such roles have begun to ask whether priesthood might unfold in us in other ways. We think about this as we chat with parents at the school gate, have dinner with friends, volunteer for a charity, walk the dog and engage in all sorts of activities that do not relate to church but are just as redolent with the sacred. We are also listening intently to questions that our children have reawakened and re-formed in us: questions about risk, about death, about what life is actually for, and about how to engage young people in a living, exploratory and intelligent dialogue with the idea of God.
I continue to explore the new shape of my life post-parish, post-fulltime role and post-being-sure-what-comes-next. I discover others who are doing the same. Together we wonder whether the institution on whose edges we exist is beginning to notice our energy and restlessness. Whether it might sit with us in wonder and reflection. And whether it will encourage our tentative steps as we seek the sacred where many do not engage with the Church yet are alive to the idea of God.
I hope to discover those women who combine full-time stipendiary ministry with young children but still think that Rosemary's grappling with these dilemmas is helpful.

4 comments:

fibrefairy said...

I may be rushing in where angels fear to tread, but as a mother of young children and teenagers, the last thing I want to do is be defined by them, I'm sorry but I could no more join a group called "clergy mummies" than fly to the moon. Yes I will be juggling their needs and mine & Mrs F's and those of the funeral director... yes I will have days when I'm torn ( as a student on a course I have those days most days, without the luxury of days " in college" and set lecture times) yes I'm interested in how motherhood and ministry works out, yes I want to do the best for my children whom I love more than life itself, but as a deacon, a priest, a minister, what I want is to be good at what I am called to do within my life as it is
whatever that is.
I have never wanted to be "defined" by being a mother, its part of me, of course, but it isn't what defines me or my vocation, which I have walked with for many years before motherhood... and now I have no wish to be patronised because i juggle kids and ministry, study, domestics...everything else...
yes I will need to seek support from those who know what it is like ( will need? do... and will continue to do so..) yes of course the children and their needs are high high up on my priorities, and motherhood has been part and continues to be part of my formation, but I still feel that we women, we mothers ghettoise ourselves too readily, too frequently... and when we do, perhaps we only have ourselves to blame that others follow our lead...

suzan said...

All of the above is so true Rachel and extreamly relevent to me as I prepare to be ordained on the 3rd of July this year and still try to maintain a secure upbringing for our four children who are all at varying stages of dependance. being 19, 17, nearly 13 and 11.
I find myself approaching my impending ordination and curacy with a mixture of excitement, nerves and anxiety. But I do feel very fortunate to have the most understanding training incumbant who has made it clear that he understands that at times family commitments will have to take priority. I am reminded somewhere in the bible where it says(and no I don't always remember where passages are!) God will nurture those who have young.

anyway enough of my ramblings

Suzan

Rachel said...

Thank you both - raises interesting points about the diversity of our reactions to such groups - personally I think that the 'clan' tendencies within human beings are manifested everywhere. I am beginning to wrestle with my own ambivalence to networking. I am conscious of issues of power and ghettoising but conscious too of my own attraction to the like-minded.

fibrefairy said...

its the name as much as anything I'm afraid..!!Way too twee!
agree with the clan thing, and attraction to the likeminded, I just tend to find that my "likeminded" groups are more about mind than life stage -IYSWIM.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.