Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Virus blues

The unwelcome beginnings of a cold reported on Sunday turned into a nasty affliction, leaving me almost without voice yesterday. The symptoms were reminiscent of the monster 'flu which put me out of action from Christmas Day to New Year's Day the year before last. With suitable hygienic precaution I got through the Evening Eucharist, then went home to a bath and early bed. By yesterday afternoon I was over the worst, able to venture out for an important meeting to work out office provision for Cardiff Business Safe. Rather than walk home in the face of an icy wind, I hopped on a bus and went out to PC World to exchange a memory card reader for the chip in my new mobile phone. I'd been sold the wrong one on the weekend by a sales assistant who was no better than I at reading the microscopic print on the box. Happily, obtaining the right one meant that I got a refund of four quid. That warmed me up. Then I jumped on another bus back to church for a quiet hour before the evening's Eucharist. Early bed was once more a welcome release from battling with the symptoms.

Today there was a midday as well as an evening Eucharist. My throat is not ragingly sore now but I only have a small voice. Hopefully this will come back to normal by Friday for preaching the Three Hours. I've worked Holy Week with bronchitis several times over the years, but I'm not as resilient as I used to be, so the risk of not getting through is greater. One can be fine most of the time, then useless when it counts most. When you go sick suddenly at the busiest time of year, there won't be too many clerics around on stand-by - they'll already be helping out in some busy place where the ministers are already stretched. There's no doubt that Parishes are feeling the pinch from clergy shortage, but there's no sign yet on the horizon of any regrouping to address the challenge. And it's the clergy who take the strain on this.

A few people in recent weeks have expressed the sentiment that my last few weeks might be happy and fulfilling to reminisce over. What I will treasure is the ocean of kindness and patient consideration from St John's members that has kept me afloat, and coped gently with my vulnerability. It keeps me from the bitter trials of having to work in isolation as a priest without a colleague. It shouldn't have to happen. A little strategic leadership and management could ensure everyone working at the public interface has support from a professional partner to share the entire workload. I mean working together, not just an emergency backup. I mean peer partners, not the boss-minion arrangement which seems to be what the church is experienced in maintaining. It didn't happen in my serving lifetime. Will I live long enough to be able to say "I told you so."? Yes, I'm moaning again. I believe things could and should be better. That was, after all, why I signed up for this, all those years ago.

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