The following article is based on an article published in “The Word” – the quarterly magazine of the Boaters Christian Fellowship – www.boaterschristianfellowship.org.uk.
What is it that could make an extrovert look forward to time alone?
What might tempt a wifi addict to trust to a potentially dodgy 3G signal along the cut?
What could persaude a Church leader to leave the Curate in charge for three months!!!?
The simple one word answer is a Sabbatical, but as the Church of England never uses a simple word when a complicated one will do I perhaps ought to explain.
After 10-15 years of ordained ministry clergy are encouraged to take 3 months out of parish life to reflect on their ministry and take time to study or develop a particular interest that the pressures of Parish life give no time to pursue. The Bishop said “yes!” So we had to work out how it might happen!
Three months away from parish life sounds easy to do – but for clergy in the Church of England (and many other Church leaders) it can be a real challenge because we live in the parish we serve – in fact, you have to have special permission from the Bishop not to live in the parish. So how do we find a way for me to be out of the parish, without it costing huge amounts of money, or me needing to find a friendly family to gate crash for three months?
Well you’ve probably guessed from the title of the blog the answer involves a narrowboat. From the beginning of March to the end of May I will be swapping the life of a busy parish priest in the Church of England for the 4 miles per hour lifestyle of a canal cruiser.
I will be borrowing NB Essence from my (wonderful) in-laws Chris and Adrian Dann and leaving Middlewich as soon as the CaRT stoppages allow me to head south either down the Shropshire Union or preferably, the Trent and Mersey. The plan is to head for London as we’ve booked moorings in Little Venice for the Easter holidays. After that I’m heading back up to the Midlands and then heading down the Oxford canal. After a brief foray on the Thames (shudder) I hope to find the fabled end of the Kennet and Avon Canal and head west. Jacquie and I used to live in Newbury and were married there, so I’m looking forward to visiting afloat. It might seem strange to choose a narrowboat as my base, with Jacquie and the boys visting most weekends and the holidays, but having holidayed several times on Essence – and its predecessor NB Bendithion – the one place I don’t mind being alone is on the back of a narrowboat – and, as many of you will know, its a great place to think and pray.
RevTechnoHubby and Mrs RTH aboard NB Essence on the Chirk Aqueduct
So, Vicars get a a three month holiday then – lucky for them – except I have a task – well, two tasks in fact.
The first task is to work on a project, something relevant to my ministry, something I haven’t had time to explore in parish life. I am a visual learner and I love all things visual so my project is to look at how we can use images an story to engage in and to teach theology. There are a lot of materials out there to help folks use images for worship and prayer, but not much in using story and image to learn and engage with theology. It seems a huge task but I already have some promising leads, and I’m hoping that time in London and Oxford will allow me to pick the brains of people far cleverer than me.
But what’s the other task. Well that’s simpler – that’s the task of being “A Vicar Afloat!” I’m sure God has a plan for some wonderful encounters along the cut. As I travel I will be looking out for those Holy Spirit moments that make the life of a minster so wonderfully exciting, but at times, a terrible privilege.
So if you see NB Essence on the cut this Spring then please do say hello – If you are looking for a mooring and want to moor alongside, just knock and the kettle can be boiled in minutes. We won’t have a Guide Dog puppy with us (as we did at the BCF annual meeting last year) but there will be a warm welcome (and if Stephen has been on his own for a couple of weeks he will be delighted to spend some time saying hello!)
So please pray for us, Stephen afloat and the family at home, and travelling lots – I will be blogging my travels here so follow my adventures on the cut, either as a wonderful example… or a terrible warning!!