I have been in my current position for eight years now. Wikipedia tells me that I am 24th out of 131 in the list of Church of England Archdeacons in terms of service.
This means that I often get asked by new archdeacons for advice. The role of the archdeacon is to look after the Church of England churches, parishes and clergy in a specific area.
For me that is basically Lancashire from the Ribble to the Cumbria border. Like any position there is a great deal of technical, legal, practical matters as well as that which a priest would be expected to do. When asked for advice I always say, “There are two essential truths you must remember.”
Being new to their posts they eagerly reach for pen and paper to receive the wisdom (?) that I am about to impart. “First, always use a toilet that you know exists before you journey to the next place.” I know that sounds like a parent before the drive to the seaside for a holiday but believe me being held up in a traffic jam for an hour can happen at any time. Also, not all places I go to have facilities or ones that are pleasant.
“Second, listen to music in the car.” In a role that involves many meetings, and often quite complex and fraught meetings ,to then listen to arguments on the radio as you journey from one place to the other means a day of angry voices.
I then talk about prayer, consultation, etc. However, our physical and psychological setting affects who we are. To be calm and insightful when either distracted by discomfort or tired out by the bombardment of arguments and disagreements which make up so much of the background noise of life is impossible.
We are on the threshold of Lent and next week I will write about how to engage with Lent etc. Lent is often seen as a time to give up things that give us pleasure to focus on Jesus’ road to the cross. What I encourage new archdeacons, you and me is to also try to give up the very things that bring displeasure! (Or at least to find a way to better cope with them.)