NSM pt.2: herding cats

This week I are been mostly… herding cats.

I’ve been working on the service rota for September. Currently at All Saints’, St Andrews we have around 11 people who can be on the service rota helping to conduct services.

From Sunday 30 August to Saturday 3 October, which is what the September rota covers, there will be 40 services. That’s three on a Sunday plus one a day, except Saturdays.

The matrix

When I took over as keeper of the rotas in November 2014 I created what I called the clergy availability algorithm matrix. It’s a spreadsheet that describes in the style of a puzzle book who can do what:

  • Priest A will not preside at 08:00, but is is happy to celebrate or deacon at the 10:00. He is happy to preach at the 10:00 two Sundays out of four, but only as a deacon not as celebrant. He cannot take any other services.
  • Priest B can preside at the 08:00 but only on the first Sunday of the month. He is happy to celebrate or deacon two Sundays out of four at the 10:00 and preach one Sunday out of four (as either celebrant or deacon). He is available for Tuesday night or Thursday lunchtime.
  • Professor C may preach but not preside, and only on festivals.
  • Priest D can preside three Sundays out of four at the 08:00 but not at 10:00. He is available for Tuesday night (if required) but prefers Thursday lunchtime.
  • Priest E. My first is in Episcopal but not in Anglican. My second is thurible but not in thurifer.
  • Etc.

That in itself makes for an interesting mind game, trying to hold that all in mind when allocating people to services

Workflow

I have the following workflow for creating rotas:

  1. Create a blank rota (filling in dates, saints’ days and festivals, etc.)
  2. Email people to ask for their availability for the next rota period. Text the one person who isn’t on email.
  3. Receive people’s availability.
  4. Create a draft rota.
  5. Email draft rota for feedback. Print out and post draft rota for the one person who isn’t on email.
  6. Make updates.
  7. Email second draft for final sign-off. Print out and post second draft rota for the one person who isn’t on email.
  8. Receive feedback.
  9. Make updates (if required).
  10. Email final version. Print out and post final version for the one person who isn’t on email.

And then the rest of the month is spent making tiny changes here and there depending on people’s changed schedules. The July rota, for example, is now on revision 20.

It’s takes a considerable time. For example, I worked on it for about 30 minutes this morning, and this evening for about two and a half hours. Over the last week there haven’t been many days when I’ve not had to tweak the rota in some way.

Folks go off sick, or have family crises, or swap with one another. Rotas are living documents that ebb and flow, merely suggesting who may turn up to lead the service. A serving suggestion, if you will.

I do quite enjoy organising it and setting it out nicely on the page, but to be honest I am quite looking forward to handing it on when the new rector arrives in mid-September.

Next up…

I’m presiding on Sunday at 08:00, which will make it four Sundays in a row that I’ve been on. So that means preparing a short (five minutes) homily, plus intercessions, plus printing out the Bible readings in font size that is big enough for my myopic eyes to read.

Then I’m not on again for 11 days.

And for a moment after writing that I felt a sense of relief… until I remembered the rotas. It’s always with the rotas…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *