Last night the 9 members of the Middlesex Area Cluster Council met with the bishop and his 'deployment' leader--though her official title is much longer and includes the words 'transitional ministry'--what she does is try to find priests to 'deploy' in jobs that are open.
It is by no means the first--may be the 4th meeting with one or the other or both--but I think the Council finally 'got it'. I won't be there forever. I've been the "Interim" missioner for 5 or 6 years (one of those--me and linear time you know) and even if I stayed two more years I'd have to retire finally and hold no positions. I could be a supply priest--one Sunday here and one there--but I couldn't have a title.
So, now things get serious. "What comes next?" is the question. What happens after Jim Bradley?
I've been in this position 3 times before, when I left churches I served. Two of them I did 'leaving well' as the church puts it. One, not so well.
A funny thing--all the three churches I've left have not done well after my departure.
Part of that is I've only served marginal urban parishes. Part of it is, I believe, I'm not a good act to follow.
My friend Jorge, another retired priest, told me the secret to successful ministry is to always 'follow an asshole'. I did that twice out of the three and Jorge has a point.
I'm not the best priest ever, by any means, but I'm not an asshole either.
I have no doubt though, that the Cluster will do well once I 'leave well'. It is a remarkable gathering of three remarkable (but very different) congregation. And they know what they're doing.
The hardest thing about replacing me is that there are so few priests interested in such a part-time job. Young priests want a full time job--which are disappearing markedly. Retired priests who are still young usually want a half-time job and I'm one-fourth time. They may have to go to half-time (though I don't think they need it) to attract someone.
But I'm glad they are now ready to get serious about transitioning. It's been a great ride, but it has to end.
It's a great gig. I hope someone really good recognizes that....
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