Message from Tim
Six Days Invisible, The Seventh Incomprehensible
The other week I was asked what ministers do all day. It may have been a bit of a rhetorical question, but one worth asking, since I remember asking the minister at the church where I was placed as a student how he spent his time. A friend of mine likes to say that, ‘Ministers are paid to think and pray,’ which might sound a bit provocative, but I think his point is to foster the belief that thinking and praying are valid uses of a minister’s time – as indeed they are. So, that is part of what I do.
How ministers spend their time varies, depending on their gifts and their location. One colleague said to me the other day that he spends more than half his time in the community. I’ve not done that here in Horsham. In a previous church I found myself doing a lot of community work – school governor, chairman of a charity providing accommodation for ex-offenders, and setting up a Street Pastor scheme – all of which meant I was spread far too thinly.
Rather than being deeply involved in the community, I have found that the ‘academic’ side of my ministry has grown. So, I am currently teaching a course on Scripture Exegesis and Hermeneutics on Tuesdays at the London School of Theology, and I am grateful to the deacons for agreeing I could do this – I find that academic thinking renews me spiritually, as well as feeding into my ministry, particularly into the sessions we are currently running on Sunday nights, looking at barriers to believing in God.
These days lots of churches are moving in the direction of having specialist ministries – and it is great that we have Michael with us, as our Leader of Community Evangelism at Brighton Road. However, I have always seen my primary gift as that of pastor-teacher. That is pretty much the traditional role of a minister – ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ is how it was put to me in one of my selection interviews, a long time ago now. If you were to ask me to what end I spend my time, I think now I would say that the focus of my ministry is well-expressed in that old-fashioned phrase, ‘the cure of souls’. And for me the word ‘soul’ carries quite a lot of freight: it conveys a sense of the intrinsic value of each person, of mental and emotional wellbeing, and of the importance of good relationships with God and with each other. So these are the issues I feel called to address in my teaching and in my pastoral work.
How I spend my time has changed as a result of Covid. When I started, I could have told you how I sought to carve up my week to ensure I gave an appropriate amount of time to preparation, being in meetings, doing pastoral visiting, and study. However, Covid threw that way of structuring my week out of the window, and I now work more flexibly, and see this as a good thing.
Our current membership is 231, and when you factor in the list of people connected one way or another with Brighton Road, that figure more than doubles. Keeping in touch with everyone while lots of people are not coming out to church has been a challenge, and sometimes people want and/or need quite a bit of pastoral input for a while. So, I have gone back to using the phone a bit more to keep in touch with people, and to try and be around to catch people as our mid-week programme gets under way again. But there is plenty there to keep me busy.
Preparing services, during and post-Covid is taking more time than used to be the case, so I am deeply grateful to those who share the load as we seek to provide two morning services for the rest of this year. I am glad, and think it is right, that preaching and worship are shared between me and others in the church. It would not be healthy or right for these to be ‘what the senior pastor does.’ And there are increasing numbers of meetings and lots and lots of emails - and, of course, preparing these weekly messages in the bulletin… One of the things I enjoy about ministry is that there is plenty of variety, and no two days or weeks are ever the same. But it does mean that most weeks I am deciding what I am not going to do, and how I am going to prioritise my time.
Lastly – to set at ease the minds of those who are concerned for my welfare – yes, I do try and make sure I take a day off every week!