Ever wondered what the Vicar does? You may be thinking he twiddles his thumbs, reads a lot or is a sleepy soul! This week we decided to have a chat with Johnny to hear about what he's currently doing and how COVID has affected his role. Because some thought it had all slowed down! I hope you enjoy!
'People often ask what Vicar-life is like in lockdown with no services to do. Physical in-person services, whilst important for worship and community teaching, is actually a very small part of my normal week. Everything has accentuated and accelerated in parish life. Our reach has extended five-fold weekly, and the needs, challenges and joys associated too have also!
Adjusting to this online life continues to be interesting and mostly uncomfortable! I love meeting with people in person so being forced to have almost all of my connections online continues to be less than ideal! My week currently comprises both in-person and video calls aplenty: prayer meetings with the parish, other clergy and wider regional evangelical leaders, serving our leaders, and PCC meetings, or simply catching up with people in equipping and pastoral calls. In-person works well on the bench outside the door here at the Vicarage, if the rain is abating! It is a very great pleasure to listen and accompany people in all sorts of struggle, seeking and serving!
There have been three massive shifts for me: Compassion & mercy ministry is vital to a whole-gospel: Doorstep encounters have reshaped ministry... co-ordinating up to 150-hrs of volunteering per week, serving, sharing & seeing wins galore in the homes and streets of our community. Our previous compassion efforts have been re-imagined as our Community Compassion Fund, and we've seen tangible expressions of kindly compassion through fresh food shopping and other practical expressions of help. Moving from monologue to dialogue – the power and pain of Zoom, with the joy of seeing God's grace and goodness even in the face of loss, challenge and human brokenness has enabled reaching out too many. New Lifegroup additions and Alpha efforts are part of this. The longer COVID lingers with us the more the costs are showing in the condition of our souls. Formation can’t just be weekly but by daily equipping! Along with the many ongoing online teaching and preaching opportunities, I've loved utilising this COVID season to do a daily devotion of sorts: taking a deeper dive into scripture each day. 70-segments of encouragements in Ephesians, and now more than 80 jottings in John later, this time has been precious, with a close reading of scripture, reflecting on this and then sharing it each day. It has both challenged me deeply and others from what I hear, feel free to join me here and comment! This costs me about 45 minutes each day in prep and recording. It's achieving great kingdom ends.
I've not been contained to the four walls of The Vicarage though. I have been taking on more and more funerals, burials, christenings and even two recent weddings. There have been beautiful opportunities to speak and serve in wider Hextable Parish Council, Sevenoaks District Council & Kent County Council leadership contexts each week. It's been fuller, longer and more demanding in the amount and velocity than ever before. Seeing people choose Jesus, return to the Father's heart and be more and more selfless in service and care of others has been what that has caused me great joy. Sadly fragmentation, distraction and apathy have increased too...
Amongst all of this, I have the admin, meetings and logistics galore that endlessly surround pastoral ministry. It's a necessary demand that comes with the job but does take up a surprising amount of my time. Comms and I are definitely not best friends, but at present emails are happily under 100, having been over 600 for too long! However, I get the pleasure of being part of God's kingdom life, showing and sharing Jesus in this community with you. I can't wait for the next few months and how God will use our collective lives and witness in this precious community of Hextable and Swanley Village!'