Back to work …
My sabbatical officially ended on 3rd July and I need to start by thanking everyone who helped looking after things whilst I was away, not only Revd Phill Harrison and our home team – Revs Alice Kemp, Clair Southgate and John Ayers – but everyone who did something extra here or there to look after things.
People are asking me a huge variety of different questions about my time away from my duties.
Was it good? To which the answer is undoubtedly ‘Yes’.
What did I do? Well, I made 100 podcasts. If you have access to the internet you can find them at www.100cupsofteagoeslarge.com<http://www.100cupsofteagoeslarge.com>. Or you can download them through your podcast app. It’s on the Even more tea vicar? channel on Audioboom.
Am I going to write a book? The quick answer to this is ‘No’. Each podcast is about 20 minutes long and there are 100 of them: that’s about 34 hours of radio, roughly 200,000 words (which some might argue is two books already).
What did I learn? I learned how to make podcasts and how to audio-edit in a hurry. You will notice that the editing improves significantly after episode 10 (I aim to go back and re-edit the earlier ones). I learned that I say ‘So’ all the time; that people have really different views about Christianity and the church; that one of the most important things when trying to make a radio recording is to keep quiet and listen. Many thanks to Martin Holmes for helping me with all the sound technicalities.
What was the point of the project? The most difficult question, perhaps, and one with many different answers. The point of a ‘Sabbatical’, or more properly ‘Extended Ministerial Development Leave’, is development for the individual. The key question I asked everyone, ‘How do you respond to the statement Christianity in the UK is not dying but sleeping?’ is integral to our work here in our local parishes – in particular in relation to our Sunday morning church attendance. If you listen to the podcasts, you’ll hear me say again and again ‘Nothing I can do seems to encourage people to come to church on a Sunday morning’. People offer many different opinions on this, and the point of the project is in one way a start on this question about the nature of the Church of England and Christianity in England. Is Sunday the important day? Is the Church of England capable of surviving the Sunday morning decline? Are we just panicking when we shouldn’t be?
Also important for me in the project was having time to visit people whom I have not seen for a long time and who are spread out all over the country. This might be considered a bit more ‘navel gazing’ but one of my advisors talked about the ‘Jungian imperative of middle age to make peace with the past’. As a parish vicar I get six Sundays off a year, so time was a blessing to me over those 13 weeks. I was able to visit some cousins, some old school friends and some people who were very formative in my early years. I managed to see an old school teacher, my old youth group leader, the leader of the Christian Youth camps I went to as a teenager, and some of those who attended those camps. Some I had not seen since I was 18, others I have kind of ‘kept up with’, and I was able to interview them, and in some cases their grown-up children.
Most famous interviewee? Probably Jeremy Vine, then Robin Ince. Also two peers, two Bishops (and one designate) then so many other people each with an important story to tell and opinion to offer. So many thanks to them all for having a cup of tea with me.