Unlike David at St. Aidan to Abbey Manor, Tree’s silence in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks has not been attributable to a self-imposed Lenten discipline. Whilst Lent in the church is traditionally a time of to give things up, this year I have found it to be an even busier time than usual.
Tree was interested to follow St. Aidan’s link to a story about a priest who also stacks shelves at his local Sainsbury store. Having been in stipendiary ministry for almost ten years now (following two years of full-time training), Tree finds himself noticing a certain institutionalisation creeping up on him unawares and realising that the world of 9 to 5 (???!!!) work is becoming a rather distant memory. Although Tree recognises that this is his calling, even so he misses the opportunities, connections and references that the world of work enables. Can (or should) this be avoided? Can ministers resist allowing the church to squeeze them into its mould?
In the New Testament, Paul is depicted as supporting himself when necessary as a tent-maker. He seems to value the independence this gave him. But Jesus was supported financially by others during his ministry. Did Jesus ever wish himself back in the carpenter’s shop (assuming the phrase in Matthew 13:55 is to be taken literally)? Did Simon Peter ever go fishing again after the Ascension?
So good on Peter Mallinson, the NSM priest of the story. Good on the Sainsbury’s staff who pressed for him to be able to wear his collar at work (even though the shirt has Sainsbury’s branding – how’s that for serving God and Mammon?), and the management who agreed. And good on all the other self-supporting ministers, readers and others who act as “suspension bridges”.