Column: Putting your feet up keeps you on your toes for work

Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev Geoff Pearson
Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev Geoff Pearson
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A recent visit to Poulton-le-Sands Church of England Primary School in Morecambe made me aware of their outstanding grade as a faith school.

Although interested to know the impact on pupils’ academic achievement and social, moral, cultural and spiritual development, I was struck particularly by the way it affected the staff. The Christian ethos was lived out across the school family.

There were strong and mutually supportive relationships among the staff.

The community was likened to a family coming together in times of celebration as well as tragedy.

The headteacher had helped her staff come to terms with the endless task of teaching in a healthy manner.

All this stood out for me at a time of increasing concern about how professionals of all kinds juggle the work/life balance, maintain equilibrium and flourish.

I see the challenge most among clergy who are often tested about their endless availability. One curate used to dread the evening phone calls from a parishioner asking for advice on solving that day’s crossword clues – after all, he wouldn’t mind being disturbed, would he?

It took a little time and tact to get the message across that the clergy need their own time too.

Defining the boundary between public and private, between on and off-duty, is not easy, especially for those with a profound sense of vocation.

In lots of professions there is the challenge of living with unfinished business.

Just as the author never senses that the manuscript is finally finished, so often those in public ministry struggle to feel that the job has been completed.

People often find it difficult to say no.

Some clergy, I know, need to hear ‘you will take a regular day off please; it’s good for you and for your people. Even God rested on the seventh day’.

One author writing about staying fresh and being resilient refers to ‘sharpening the saw’. A carpenter with a blunt saw will not do a good job and, more than that, risks actual harm.

So keeping ‘sharp’ by being properly rested and refreshed is essential.

Maybe that Morecambe school has something to contribute to healthy clergy, healthy churches and to all of us as the main holiday season approaches.