I woke up this morning to find a pile of unwrapped Christmas presents and a stack of unwritten Christmas cards. I checked my phone to find several missed calls and unanswered messages and a news notification assuring me of train strikes and bad weather. I also had no clean jeans. Downstairs in the kitchen, there was no milk, and I’d run out of coffee filters.
To many people, the 24th December is comfortably in holiday territory, but I wasn’t quite there yet. Surrounded by a big bag of animal hay, a sample of edible donkey poo, and an earless homemade sheep sock puppet, all ready for our Christmas Eve Messy Church, I couldn’t help but wonder how I found myself in this job. This has been one of my favourite Decembers, filled with the joys of parish life and community, yet with many carol services, children’s activities, teenage residential and trips, Nativity plays, christingles, norovirus, and two bad colds under my belt, I’m also utterly shattered. I remember when I first started this job, my then 13-year-old cousin said to me, “But we’ll see you lots, still, won’t we? Because the church is only open on Sundays, right?” In a country where church attendance has been steadily declining over the last century, it’s easy to see how life in ministry is difficult to grasp and before I started working for the C of E, I, too, had much less of an understanding of the sheer amount of work that goes on during the week. There are mums and babies’ groups, school visits, hospital visits, plenty of pastoral care, older peoples’ groups, admin, and then there’s all the stuff that is typically associated with “church”. It’s brilliant and dynamic and I would swap it for very little, but it’s also completely exhausting and I am definitely looking forward to a break.