Monday, July 05, 2010
The work is not finished, but it is over
6 Months ago, everything was going well. We had just appointed our second chaplaincy assistant and he had settled in well. The Chaplaincy had had a good start to the year, and I was planning another epic rumour on campus.
We were making good partnerships with the institution, we had successfully negotiated a new chaplaincy lease and student services had even produced a map showing where you could go for support and chaplaincy was on it. I had a good relationship with the Chief Operating Officer and we had a new VC in post and I was beginning to get to know him.
Then I got a phone call completely out of the blue and I went to sit in my diocesan Bishop's office for only the second time in 9 years – the last time being when he agreed to ordain me. Then he told me that the Diocese was 'not in financial difficulty'. However it needed to take some drastic action.
I asked him 'Do I need to be concerned about this?' and we now know I did.
In the intervening time I felt a little alone. I can't really complain that the Bishop wasn't there for me. After all the crisis was accompanied by a spectacular piece of planning on the part of the Church of England that removed both our area Bishops just as 'the budget' was going through synod. I don't blame Micheal Scott-Joynt in anyway. I feel a lot of sadness for him, he seems to have aged a lot in the last six months. The pressure must be enormous.
I could have thought to myself 'I'll ring the Archdeacon' but my archdeacon is facing his own redeployment. The whole diocese has something of the air of depression about it. At my management course we were all asked to brainstorm the difficulties in ministry. Finances came up again and again. I was the only one there who didn't mention it.
'Lack of funds limits all we can do' one participant offered.
I know the diocese will get through this but it hasn't exactly been easy to be part of it. I've tried to carry on but it has been almost impossible. You see being clergy, you give up a lot of what other people take for granted. Your house is tied to your job. You can't save for that rainy day like other people can because your stipend is supposed to be enough, but only enough, to live on. Certainly not enough to buy that yellow sports car I've always wanted. But hey! I've got a blue Renault Megane can't complain at that. In return for laying that aside you have to have one thing, financial security. That is what the deal is supposed to be. To free us from that at least so that we can be there for the almost universal demands of ministry.
“Give me but one firm spot on which to stand, and I will move the earth” and all that.
Being chaplain to the University of Southampton these last six months has been like being in goal at Fratton Park. You can hardly blame me for wanting to kick off at the Walkers next season.
I have fought and the students have fought, and the offer when it came was not so much the chance to do more, but more like a bit more time in to find another job. Together with the offer of qualified common tenure. This year nearly broke me. I am not ready to go round that loop again.
So I have decided to leave Southampton.
It has been an honour to serve the finest university in the world. I remain incredibly grateful to both Bishop Michael and the Bishop Paul Butler for putting that trust in me.
The work is not finished, but it is over.
I have written to the Bishop and I have resigned.
Now it's off to pastures new.