As an NSM, this week I are been mostly…

I love the light in the morning in the sacristy (clergy vestry) at All Saints', St Andrews.
I love the light in the morning in the sacristy (clergy vestry) at All Saints’, St Andrews.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking that I need to blog more, and more than just music videos of Star Wars game demos (though those things are exciting me just now) but some real life stuff: what’s going on for me just now, where my energies are being spent.

I was standing in church on Sunday, after the 08:00 Eucharist had finished, the congregation had left and stillness had filled the building once again when I remembered that a while ago I’d wanted to write about what being a non-stipendiary minister (NSM) means to me and what I do. So here I am, on the first of what I hope will be many posts reflecting on this.

Stipendiary vs non-stipendiary

The first thing to clear up, I guess, is: what is a non-stipendiary minister? Well, it’s a minister, a member of the clergy, who is not paid a stipend. (How nice to be defined by something negative!) In the church, stipendiary clergy get paid a a kind of salary to enable them to carry out a role that the church has asked of them without the need for them to also go out and get a job to earn money to live on.

 

There are all sorts of legal and tax—and I dare say historic—reasons why clergy don’t get paid a salary, related to employment status and whatnot but that is the crux of it: in order to be available 24/7 to carry out a particular role, the church pays some clergy some money so they don’t need to get a ‘proper’ job.

Non-stipendiary clergy, like me, do the role without getting paid.

From 1999 to 2006 I was a stipendiary clergyman. Now I’m not, for all sorts of reasons not least of which was that that job was literally killing me. And making me depressed. And I rarely got to spend time with my wife. And we were on an IVF programme, which was stressful enough. And I was upset about how many of my NSM clergy friends were being treated, so I crawled under the fence and joined them. And probably a host of other reasons…

This week

Clergy meeting

Today we had our monthly clergy meeting, where the five NSMs who are currently looking after All Saints’, St Andrews get together to organise rotas, and worship, and share pastoral information.

The meetings have only been going on since Fr Jonathan left in November 2014 and we were invited to keep things going during the Rector vacancy.

I take the minutes for this meeting, usually writing them up on my laptop as the meeting happens which gives me less to do later on, and then emailing or posting them out in the evening.

I really enjoy these meetings, which usually last up to 90 minutes. We ramble our way through a very loose agenda, taking many a detour but usually ending up back in the right spot. And there is quite a lot of laughter. Oh, and fellowship—Christians like to use the word “fellowship” when they really mean friendship and fun.

Homily

I’ve got a homily (a short sermon) to write for the 08:00 Eucharist on Sunday. I need to get started thinking about that today. I need to find the readings, print them out (so I can scribble on them), and read them over a couple of times.

And I don’t ever look up old sermons that I’ve preached on those passages. Nope! Never do that. No, sirree! That’s one thing that I definitely don’t do.

Erm… actually, that is something that I do.

I also subscribe to the Midrash lectionary discussion email group which I find really inspiring.

Admin

I’ve also got a few other admin-type things to do this week:

  • Update the website with service times for August.
  • Update the 1970 Scottish Liturgy booklet we use at the 08:00 service, to include the peace.
  • Type up and distribute clergy meeting minutes.
  • Begin work on the September rota.
  • Update and print a set of A5 booklets detailing saints days’ collects and short biographies.
  • Create a poster.

So, not much then… I’ll blog again later this week with an update and further reflections.

Is it just me or are dog collars getting longer these days?

My two new clergy shirt collars compared with my older, and significantly shorter one.
Two new clergy shirt collars (top) compared with an older, and significantly shorter, one.

On Sunday 18 August I ordered a new clerical shirt online from J Wippell and Co Ltd. My current three shirts are getting a bit faded and past their best so it was time to order a new one. A black one, of course (is there any other colour, other than for a bishop?), in the formal ‘tonsure’ style.

I received a very polite email a couple of days later:

Reverend Dear Sir

Thank you for your order for a shirt.

This item is not in stock and is therefore being specially made, we anticipate dispatch to be around the 2nd September 2013.

We apologize for the delay and we will email you when we dispatch your order.

Ah, not ideal. I have an institution in St Andrews to attend on Wednesday 4 September, and if there are any delays in the mail then it may not arrive in time. I emailed them back:

I actually ordered the shirt primarily for an institution in St Andrews on Wednesday 4 September, as the dog collars on my current tonsure shirts have all but one disintegrated! Do you think that the shirt may have arrived by then? I’m happy to pay extra for faster delivery if so.

And as a company that understands exemplary customer service I was assured by a return email that schedule had been revised and the shirt would now leave the factory on Thursday 29 August.

It didn’t. It arrived at my house on Thursday 29 August. What tremendous service.

But just take a look at how long the new ‘dog’ collars are!