MADPRIEST UPDATE

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."

Mrs MP and myself have just come back from an interview for a parish priest's job down south. We set out at 5.00 a.m. yesterday because it was a six hour journey. When we got there some lovely people showed us around three beautiful old churches. We went to see one of the most brilliant primary schools I have ever been in, where I chatted to the kids and teachers. I met the rural dean, and fell in love with her on the spot - she obviously really cared for her priests and had a pastor's heart, rather than being just a career person with her eye on the archdeacon's job. Then, in the evening the parish threw a party for us (there were two other applicants). Now, I usually hate these "meet the people" sort of things, it's like you are all performing on X Factor. But this shindig was real fun. I think I got to speak to everybody and they were all wonderful people. I particularly enjoyed speaking with their youth worker who had some brilliant ideas, many of which she had already put into practice. We spoke about how we could take the older kids in the churches along to Greenbelt next year and starting a house group for them (I had a vision of them commandeering one of the many rooms in the Georgian mansion that was the rectory that came with the job).

This morning I attended the formal interview. Now, I have been working very hard on my interview technique recently because, as many of you know, I was pretty crap at them. But today's interview went better than I could have hoped for. I didn't come across as aggressive (which, because of extreme nervousness I have done up to now) and I managed to answer the questions without waffling and backing up my claims with good examples from my work in the past.

We drove the 250 miles home in the worst gale this country has experienced for a long time, which was a bit scary. Almost as soon as I we got through the door, the bishop rang to tell me that I hadn't been chosen. I don't think (though you can never be 100% sure with bishops) that he was sugar coating the pill when he told me that they had been impressed with my pastoral abilities, my vision and commitment to mission. But, I had been rejected because they didn't think I would be a tough enough leader. Evidently, there can be infighting among the congregation due to their high level of, quite often opinionated, intellect. I really wish they had put this in the profile they sent me as I could have told them this up front and not gone all the way for what was always going to be a major and heartbreaking disappointment. I'm a parish priest, a pastor, a preacher of the Good News, not the speaker in the House of Commons or a lion tamer.

One of the other candidates was a man who had come late to the priesthood after a career in law at a high level and no doubt very qualified in telling people what to do. I expect, although I don't know for sure, that he got the job.

In the book on interview technique that I have been studying recently, the author tells the story of an ex-army officer who went for a job in civvy street. He was asked if he had any particular skills, to which he answered, "Yes, I can shoot a man dead at 300 yards."

He got the job. I wonder if similar qualifications are now what are required from prospective parish priests.

Mrs MP and myself will now be homeless for a while, at least, as it is impossible for me to now get an appointment that will start before we have to move out of the church premises we now occupy.

Me and George Herbert are off down the pub now to get pissed and drown our sorrows as there doesn't appear to be a place for either of us nowadays in the Church of England PLC.

Comments

MADPRIEST UPDATE — 39 Comments

  1. Crud — so sorry– prayers for some new openings – the right place for you Mrs. MP – good news about your abilities and the confirmation of them — I will have a drink with you tonight tho it is probably too late to join you.

  2. “I don’t think (though you can never be 100% sure with bishops) that he was sugar coating the pill when he told me that they had been impressed with my pastoral abilities, my vision and commitment to mission.”

    I really do beg you to frame this as a huge success. You have never before interviewed so well and you have NEVER had a bishop say this about how you came across to a parish.

    Is there someone you can consult over there about how to use this experience to open doors? Surely this bishop can recommend you for a parish where they DON’T particularly want such as “tough” (translate: hardheaded, ruthless) leader.

  3. Sorry you didn’t get the position! Sounded a lovely opportunity for you.

    But do tell where it was, some of us southerners are just so nosey!

  4. The bishop told me that I should contact him personally if I see anything I fancy in his patch and that he would discuss the parish situation with me before I decided to apply or not. His phone call was the best rejection experience I have ever had. If only more bishops had the same pastoral acumen. To be honest I’m not particularly worried about the honesty – I appreciate the effort.

  5. I can’t do that, Chris. They were good people and some of them not only read my blog but were interested in it. It is possible that one of them may read this post and I don’t want to embarrass them especially as they were such good hosts.

  6. And I forgot say in the post. One of the people from the church had a phd in animal theology from Aberdeen and was active in the campaign to halt intensive farming.

    Oh, we could have made such sweet music together 🙂

  7. I’m with Ellie on this one. Crap, crap, crap not to get it, but Godly and good if you did so well, and they recognised it wasn’t the right place. Follow it up. Write to the bish and make the first move. Ask if there’s anyone else you could/should talk to ie. archdeacons. They’ll know what’s going to come up in their diocese before it gets advertised.
    PS I hope The Rev’d Herbert paid his way tonight. I’ve always imagined he might be a bit of a free-loader when it comes to getting the rounds in.
    PPS Bloody well done Maddie!

  8. No problems down the pub, Ostrich. We sang some of George’s hymns. He recited some of his poetry and the locals bought us rounds all evening. Mainly to shut us up, I fear, but what the heck, it was a free night out.

  9. Jonathan, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry. You seem to have done quite well except for lacking the skills of a lion tamer. Obviously, my assigned line, “The bastards!” is not applicable in this instance, and I don’t know what else to say.

    Love and blessings.

  10. Have interviewed many for jobs. So more advice. Make it CLEAR that you would not use the position as a stepping stone for something better or bigger. I always vote against anyone I suspect is in the stepping stone climb. Luke

  11. Jonathan, I’m having a beer in honor of you, Mrs MP and George Herbert. Of course it’s a letdown, but I agree with Ellie: though you were not chosen, this should still be listed in the ‘win’ column. You made it into the top three in a really great situation, which means you are getting closer; you were thoroughly prepared and performed very, very well; they were impressed with exactly those things that you regard as your strong points as a priest; you got immediate and apparently honest feedback from the bishop, who expressed an interest in having you apply for other openings in his diocese; you met people in the parish who love your blog and share other interests of yours (which proves such people are out there in the C of E); and you made it safely home (i.e., didn’t get blown into the North Sea by the gale). I believe you are getting closer to the parish you are meant to have. In any case you deserve congratulations for your performance. It is no small thing to rise to an occasion such as this when you’ve been undervalued for so long and then unemployed.

  12. GH has no place in the Church of England by virtue of being Welsh, a poet and mainly dead. This is, as far as I can tell, not applicable to your good self.

  13. I don’t know what to say. Really. I know. Me, right? This is beyond cruel and unusual punishment.

    If “love is all you need” you would be the flippin’ Archbishop of Canterbury and do a bloody better job at it as well. Thanks how much I – and so many others – love you. Even so, I know that Jesus loves you more.

    Okay, so CRAP. CRAP. And, did I mention, CRAP?

    I don’t know what your options are, other than snuggling up to that brilliant bishop who clearly sees your skills and gifts for ministry and seeing where that leads.

    Okay, so here’s the deal: I have a wonderful home on the water in RB with two empty bedrooms which will be a wonderful base from which to get a post in TEC. The house will be empty from January – June while I’m in Cambridge, MA as Proctor Fellow. The house is yours.

    I’m serious about this, Jonathan. So, get a script for a good tranq from your doc, get your nervous arses on a plane, and get your sassy self over to the colonies. You got TONS of TEC-es who will help network to get you a post.

    I mean, what have you got to lose? Sometimes, it’s better to kick the dust from your sandals and move on. Wait. Someone else said that. That’s not an original thought. Never mind. It’s still a good one.

    Think about it. It’s the only real option I can offer. And, it’s the real deal. Mrs. MP could get a job here in a heartbeat. Of course, you and I would have to sign a “Do No Murder” agreement for December, but then, I’ll be away and you’ll both be on easy street.

    Much love, my dear man. You know you don’t deserve this. Sometimes, crap happens. Even to the best of us.

  14. I agree with Ellie too. Well done you. It sounds like you put in a fabulous effort and they were really positive about you even if there was another candidate who was “tougher”. Hopefully since the bishop was encouraging something else good will come out of it.

  15. I think the obvious answer is that they’re just not ready for your rocking awesomeness yet. Not your fault – they’re just still playing catchup.

  16. MP, I here your pain and wince. CRAP!

    All you can do is try to learn from it and I have no idea what the lesson might be. Meanwhile I hear I am “to experienced for this level” from an employer here. Our final court date on the house is next week. So the homeless thing has real dimensions for me too.

    Did I mention CRAP!?!

    FWIW
    jimB

  17. Well, shite.

    Have to say, you do sound like you’re keeping your spirits up (thank the Almighty for spirits to help one’s spirit!).

    God, in his wisdom and benificence, gifted human beings w/ discovering this wonderful device called the “aero-plane”. By means of this contraption, ever since Lucky Lindy, people have been ***crossing the Atlantic Pond***. They’re quite safe: it even stopped Yours Truly from plunging Pond-ward some 30 years ago! :-0

    I recommend you try it (per TELP, or some other offer. Frankly, I can see you more blending in w/ the Anglo-maniacal Canucks, but one way or another…)

  18. Change country or change denomination; you could become a DIY priest travelling and selling your wares like Bishop Jonathan Blake – in fact, given your beliefs, you could join his Open Episcopal outfit and be a DIY priest, even become a bishop. Unitarians have a huge shortage of ministers – many well funded small churches looking for someone – but you seem a bit wedded to the Anglican liturgy and approach (even if they want to take much of that off you too).

  19. Dammit, dammit, DAMmit!

    But, still, the bishop sounds decent and, as you say, pastoral.

    You know, you may want to see about using said bishop as a sounding board and advisor. Priests need pastors, as well, and, in this case, he could counsel on the career as well.

    As for this latest, remember, liberals do too have exact molds you are expected to fit, and you have acknowledged yourself, you do not fit the liberal party line.

  20. Ah, rats! But you did good, Mad One. They were impressed with you and your skills, it’s just that those skills didn’t include handling a chair and a whip. Please, communicate with that bishop some more. It sounds as though he may be able to find somewhere else to put your abilities to use. Glad you made it home through the storm, too.

  21. Geez! You can’t take a trick MP. I should have shorted your stock 6 months ago. I’d have made a bucket load by now. Knowing my luck if I tried it now I’d be too late. Perhaps I should go long on you from now. You must be due for a bounce.

  22. I’m gonna be positive (which anyone who knows me, is not my typical reaction to anything).

    They thought you did GREAT in all the things that matter pastorally, and you wouldn’t be a fit because it is a priest-killing political place.

    You’d e miserable.

    And the Bishop said, “let me know, there will be places that fit better.”

    I take this as a triumph. You ahve gifts, but like any of us, your gifts would be wasted, burned out, in the wrong place.

    There IS a place for you, and the campaign you are waging is WORKING. People are recognizing what you are. You won’t fit everywhere. You aren’t a politician. You are a priest. A place that needs a priest, not a politician, needs you. Vice versa, not so much.

    I’m really encouraged. Really.

  23. I’m so sorry, Jonathan. You are in my prayers. Sometimes it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, it’s just that you haven’t done those right things you’re doing long enough. Everything you have said here sounds like you were incredible in the interview and had your head in the right place. Please don’t get discouraged. I am so looking forward to the stories once you have your own little parish.

  24. Had a similar experience last week. Archdeacons response to me was that the parish was much more conservative than he expected and yet it was he who persuaded me to go for interview. I don’t know how this can be put on the profile if the hierarchy are not aware of what a parish is like until they come to do the interviewing.
    I’d say that even if they appeared lovely on the surface you probably had a lucky escape. Come and be my boss- you would be sympathetic to NSMs. Ad goes in CT next Feb.

  25. That sounds very like a place we looked at about 7 years ago, in Dorset but both himself and the other candidate decided they didn’t want it at all.I suspect that it might have further accelerated our departure from parish ministry
    Viv

  26. You could become a DIY priest travelling and selling your wares like Bishop Jonathan Blake

    DIY Priest – there’s a TV series in that. 🙂

  27. I feel for you, MadPriest. This process is so difficult. Going for interviews and feeling happy about the experience only to be turned down is devastating.

    I have trouble even getting to the interview stage, but I suspect it is because I’m in Panamá and times are so tough that Search Committees can’t even afford an international telephone call.

    You continue to be in my prayers.

  28. Oh damn I am so sorry. Will keep on praying for you, if that helps. It really isn’t fair and I know they meant well but I could only laugh to read they thought you wouldn’t be tough enough to deal with any infighting. What a shame.

    *hugs*

  29. Crap! and ditto what everybody else said. But you did do well in the interview, so that’s an achievement to be proud of and feel hopeful about. You also learned some new questions to ask, which will be most helpful next time.

    In my teens, I felt some stirrings toward the ministry, but providentially I didn’t go down that road. I still think that if I absolutely had to, I could lead worship and give a creditable homily; but of course there’s so much more to the job than that.

    At this late age, seems very clear to me that being a parish priest in a small church with no assistant clergy is an impossible job; I think the lion-tamer metaphor is very good. It’s not like leading the gentle sheep by the still waters, as we may imagine it was in the olden days.

    But even though I know I’m not at all cut out for such, some folks do thrive and prosper in that sort of job, with the right congregation, and you may well be one of them. So from another unemployed and for the moment stymied stumbler, all good luck and good wishes to you. Hang in there, buddy.