The last two days I've been getting some static from folks outside the church community about the degree to which I am in the office at church.
So here's the deal.... I'm in the church office a lot. About 40 hours a week, in fact, NOT including work done off site. In truth I'm probably working 50-60 hour weeks, easily. But just because I'm not there on Mondays (my only day off, and even then I still work it sometimes against my better judgment), and Friday mornings (I have a standing meeting on Friday mornings), doesn't mean I'm hard to get a hold of. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, and email pretty much constantly. I have my cell phone on my hip (and the number is on the church's voice mail, website, my business card, and the bulletin), and I usually answer it unless I'm in the middle of meeting, one of my 3 or 4 weekly services, or am praying. If you stop by and my office door is closed but the light is on, it means I'm probably either meeting with someone about something important or working on something that requires my complete attention. Respect the closed door, please.
So I was pretty annoyed today when when one guy told me I was "a hard man to reach" and another was surprised that when he showed up at the church randomly and I wasn't there.
I said to the first guy, "Did you try my cell phone? The number is on the message of the church answering machine." He said, "I don't know what my associate tried." Sigh. You know that part on a church's voice mail where it says, "In case of pastoral emergency Father Tay can be reached at ....." Perhaps DEATH is such a case? Of course, I didn't point that out. Instead I went with the more pastorally appropriate response, "I'm disappointed that you proceeded without speaking with me...."
In the case of the second guy, a tradesman who needed to repair something, I simply had him wait five minutes so that I could walk back to the church to let him in. I had just walked home after already working seven hours without lunch and feeling ill from a cold. I had settled into a project in my office and home but dutifully put my shoes back on and trudged back to the church because he couldn't be bothered to call me before he showed up.
Some people (not parishioners, let me be clear) seem to think that clergy should keep banker's hours. That we should sit passively in our studies just waiting by the phone and our desks for someone to come by.
In fact, I should be spending less time in my office. I should be taking more meetings and having more coffees and lunches with people. Ministry is about ministry, not about being around in the office. Most of the time I'm in my office I'm by myself, doing e-mail and reading and either cleaning up from one event or preparing for another. I'm sorry, but stacking chairs and throwing out old bulletins is not the best use of my time, but I do it because it needs to be done. But the best parts of my day inevitably involve other people. Being a body available to let people in or answer phones is one of the least important things I do in a day.
Okay. 'Nough said.