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Five or Six Days- a follow up post

In my last post I threw out a line- “I am aware that the Anglican notion of working six days a week is ridiculous. The extra half day outside of work is just about a doable thing, but I think we need to shove things into five days for the good of everyone.”

In facebook and other comments that is the thing that seems to have stood out to people- and so I feel that I need to explain a bit more fully why I’ve come to that place in my thinking.

Firstly, this is a personal choice that I’ve made, which has come through a journey of acknowledging that I am a driven sort and finding ways to ensure that I am still alive and functioning in twenty years time. 

Secondly, this is a work in progress.

Thirdly, and more expansively- when I say that we should work five days not six this is what I think I mean. (I think it was clear in the first post that I do actually work more than five days)

I realised quite early on in ordained life that I needed to have two days a week where I don’t have to set an alarm. Now I realise that I may have just alienated anyone with children, dogs or a farm. I have none of these so can only speak for me. My need for two non alarm days is in part because I don’t sleep well. If I don’t allow enough processing time through the course of the week, then my subconscious books the next available bit of time to unpack all the thoughts and feelings of the previous however many days. And that means that quite often I wake early on my Sabbath (or day off, or Friday). This happens more if I have evening meetings. So, in order to get enough sleep, it’s helpful to not have to be up early on a Saturday. Now I am still up and functioning by eight most weeks, but there is something about removing the pressure that I’ve found helpful.

And then it’s a conversation about “have to” and “want to”.  I don’t respond well to “have to”- it’s been called a Jezebel spirit, but let’s just brush past that misogyny and own that some of us are like that. Let’s also accept the reality that paid vicar work includes a significant amount of “have to”.  Our “have to” will all be different, as we are.

But in day six (usually a Saturday) I avoid “have to”. I don’t write policy in them, I don’t often do notice sheets, or PCC agendas. I do things that I like. That might include sermon writing, or seeing people (rare but sometimes) or facilitating some training. But its stuff that I enjoy.

And I measure that day by task not by time- I rarely say that I will work until lunch or tea, I say that I will get the sermon ready, or I will create that Bible study stuff, or I will see this person.

In doing that I have a day that is work, but feels more like the freedom of volunteering. I know that a lot of our volunteers exhibit “have to” sentiment, but at its best volunteering is “want to”. 

So, when I talk about shoving things into five days, I am primarily talking about “have to” stuff.


There is a broader point though. My sending incumbent reckoned that ordained folk would do well to work an average working week that was a normal week plus what a committed volunteer might offer. I do that when a working week is forty hours. I may do it when a working week is forty five hours.

However, if we have people who are working fifty or sixty hours and then are volunteering on top, we have a problem.  We have a problem because, as dutiful clergy we might be regularly doing sixty hours. I’m not sure that’s sustainable. But I am also pretty sure that it’s not good that our people are working like that either.

The dying edge of capitalism as we live it means that in a world where we have more automation than ever, a small group of dedicated people are working themselves to breakdown.  We see extraordinary statistics about work related stress, the UK has terrible productivity figures and we work really long hours. If ordained people simply try and keep up and look busy then I don’t know what we have to say to the world.

I suspect I will write more around this- watch this space.


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