Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom for Ministry

Cherry, Stephen
Sacristy Press (2012)
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This book, written to help parish priests manage their time, is divided into 28 tidy little sessions, each consisting of a micro essay, food for thought, and things to do, with the sections divided by interludes.

Cherry, who is involved in continuing ministry education, says: "...  the system is creaking and people are cracking as more is continuously expected". Well, so it is, but much of what is wrong is the imposition on priests of massive bureaucratic burdens. Take, for example, the marriage reforms which allow people with qualifying connections to marry where they don't live. The legislation was simple; the 'Guidance' from the House of Bishops was monumental.

But, that being the case, Cherry is right to go through all the normal processes which are nicely set out; and he's careful to distinguish his 'time wisdom' for clergy from time management for executives, the difference between Kairos and kronos.

But let me show my hand: I am a Reader in a Parish which has had two decades of, let us say, interesting clerical leadership and now, in what is rather strangely called an 'inter regnum' we are learning both how hard a parish priest works but also how much we never got to hear about. And although Cherry describes all the right things - learning how to say 'no', organising time, being punctual, writing lists, establishing priorities, using new technology properly - it simply isn't ever going to be enough.

It may, perhaps, be unfair to criticise this charming little book for not being what it should, but surely some of a priests' time should be used in helping to plan the time and tasks of others; there's nothing here about delegation or empowerment, nothing about how parishes can help clergy to spend more time on their knees in church and less time on their bottoms in front of a word processor.

I should give one very telling example which Cherry quotes, only one of many that made me laugh out loud: clergy in training are split into two groups,  the first being told it is late, the second that it is on time, for a session on the Good Samaritan at a neighbouring campus building. The first lot, who think they are late, encounter a tramp in an alley and pass him by, some stepping over him to get to where they are going!

The study of this book ideally lasts about six months, although you can read and absorb it in two hours, if you can ever find such a sumptuous time bloc. It's worth reading if only as a behaviour check, even if you think that your time management is more than adequate.