How do full-time stipendiary ministers spend their “day off”? If Twitter is anything to go by, coffee shops feature heavily for some – a sentiment I share. For me, the issue was partially resolved in my curacy – I learned to snowboard and to ski.
This week’s Church Times has an interesting (to me at least) column on snowboarding by Neil Elliot, who has gained a PhD on the back of some research on the spirituality of snowboarding (wish I’d thought of that!). Sadly, the online version of the article lies behind the Church Times’ paywall, so no link – sorry, folks. In the article Neil relates how he resolved the “day off” issue by learning to snowboard at his local dry slope. Later, he progressed to real snow at the Snowdome at Tamworth before hitting real mountains in Europe and Canada, where it seems how now lives.
My own snow odyssey began when my lads – teenagers then – bought a Playstation with the snowboard game SSX. After a playing a few games of SSX, I got hooked on the snowboard fantasy at the tender age of 48. It was then that I noticed the sign to the Snowdome off the A5 (about 25 minutes away from our house then). Learning to snowboard was a painful process. I discovered muscles I never knew I had and ended every session with bruises in painful places. At one point I even had a small crack in my elbow – the nurses at the local A&E were impressed when I told then how I did it, the German doctor who treated me, less so. Still, “no pain, no gain,” as they say.
It was while recovering from this injury that I decided to learn to ski. And although I did complete my basic snowboard training, it was skiing that became my main focus on snow. A knee injury sustained a week before my son’s wedding in Canada kept me off the snow for a couple of years (the wedding photos show me on crutches, and I learned more about the Canadian healthcare system than I ever wanted to know). But now I’m back.
For me, skiing gives me some physical activity, plus the adrenalin rush of being able to travel at some speed over slidey stuff. Well, I’ll never make the World Cup circuit or the Winter Olympics (once described by Dara O’Briain as “40 different ways to slide”). But I have found something enjoyable and personally rewarding, which gets me out of the parish and diocese and gives me a few hours where I never even think of work issues. And on the occasion that I finally made it to a Canadian mountain, it was a great way to enjoy the Great Outdoors in winter.
So, and particularly if you are a stipendiary minister, how do you spend your free time?