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Name: Jack
PhD discipline: Theology
Area(s) of work: University teaching; religious ministry
Year of graduation: 1995
Date of Interview: 29/07/2009

Jack - vicar
Jack talks about what his current role as a vicar involves.

Can you tell me a bit more about what life is like now?  What is your day like? 

Right. Well I have two jobs in that I'm the vicar of a parish and I also teach theology in the university but I spend much more time being a parish priest than I do teaching and that is divided up into four obvious areas – the most basic of which is prayer and worship so I'm in church three times a day on every working day as a routine; in the morning and in the evening and for a Eucharist each day. And obviously parish work involves a certain amount of admin and that sort of thing. That's another area. It involves an important sort of teaching and study ministry particularly for preaching so I spend a certain amount of time on that and I spend a lot of time on what might generally be called pastoral contact which either means people coming to see me or me visiting hospitals, hospices, housebound and lots of student contact as well. When you're the vicar of what you might call an ordinary residential parish, you tend to wander round and knock on people's doors. When your congregation is made up of a university or something like that in the centre of a city where very few people live, it's rather a different dynamic but you're roughly speaking doing the same thing so instead of knocking on people's doors, I meet them for coffee or something like that. But it's still a lot of one to one work, a lot of listening and a lot of encouraging and nurturing people who are new to my particular church but usually new to Christianity generally, or at least new to it again – a lot of people have a certain church background which then for some reason stops and they take it up again at student level or later. There's a certain amount of what people think vicars spend all their time doing which is things like baptisms, weddings and funerals. Actually, being a city centre parish we have much less of that because we don't have what you would call an ordinary residential community. When I was in Essex I did much more of that. I did a funeral a week I suppose and here I probably do three or four funerals a year, so the day is divided into all those different activities and the worship side of it is what punctuates it, so it doesn't always begin and end in church because I often have to work in the evening at meetings or something like that, but it's the boundary if you like; the space in which it works is bounded by liturgy and worship and prayer which is essential.

What things do you enjoy most and least about your job?

What I enjoy most about my job is getting to know people, particularly young people, and encouraging people who are new to the Christian faith and talking to people who have lots of questions and issues and who are genuinely challenged by issues they face in their own lives, issues they face in the world around them and what they perceive to be the teaching of the Christian church. Sometimes they have a wrong perception of it but it's something which engages them. The other thing I particularly enjoy funnily enough is funerals of members of my own congregation. I have a lot of people who are very long standing and very holy Christians and ministering to them when they're dying is a tremendous privilege and ministering to their families and sitting, something as simple as sitting by the bedside and praying with people who are dying. But also the actual funeral itself and the celebration of the Christian faith and a belief in resurrection is something that's very powerful. So that's two things I enjoy most. What I enjoy least is being asked by drug addicts for money which is a particular issue for clergy who work in the city centre. Not because I have difficulty not giving money to people who shouldn't have cash but just because the blight of addiction is so very, very obvious in the centre of a city like Oxford and it's a tragedy with which one is constantly confronted and in the face of which one feels rather powerless. Not that there aren't things going on and things with which the churches are involved and all that sort of thing, but when it confronts you as a one to one thing with an individual it's an unfailingly depressing experience.