A long time ago, in the misty region of another life, I remember a new priest, about 28 he was, having served in his parish of a year meeting me and telling me that he really didn’t like the people he served. Now that would be sad and bad enough, but his other mates who were in the same position sat down for sherry and each one of them proceeded to make the same complaint about their parishes.
I listened to this going on for about half an hour or so, out of a rare bout of politeness, and then I left the room. I probably did tell them what I thought, but they were miserable creatures in any case who took delight in giving their opinions robustly and looking down their noses at most people. It is no wonder they didn’t get on in the parishes.
Unfortunately it is a style of being that sticks and the moaning clergyperson is a feature of many a clergy chapter, sometimes they coagulate in a corner and it can be very difficult to get them to separate.
I know of a priest near to me who has no regard for her people whatsoever and her church is falling round her head in every sense I can imagine. Her attitude to her few worshippers is appalling. Her freehold status means that, unless she is offered something plumb, then they are saddled with her. The needs of the people around her, are great and the support she has been offered is legion, but her inability to love her people leaves her, and her flock without sustenance.
I wanted to get this off my chest because I do feel that the readiness of many to complain about parishioners is often wrong. I know what it is to have to tackle very difficult people who do their level best to undermine your good work. I am fully conversant with the tricks and traps that are placed in the path of clergy, on occasion. What I fail to get to grips with is the mindset that will deliberately reject the people the priests are called to serve.
I can have all the sympathy in the world for the stressed and isolated clergyperson. I can show compassion and empathy for the priest who has lost his way. But I find it hard to listen to people deliberately pulling down the people we serve and it is a habit that is best got out of as soon as it begins.
Apologies for the rant, and the directness of my writing, but I am miffed by some comments I have heard over the course of last week.