... 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.