Respect your clergy!

Respect your clerg!

Image source:
I don’t know who this bloke is, but just respect your clergy, ok?

Ok, so it seems that my last post on how the clergy life is easier than life for the rest of us has generated lots of comment and reaction. I wanted this. But the last thing I wanted was to undermine respect for, or confidence in, the clergy.

As always, let’s get a working definition happening: By referring to clergy or the ministry, I’m referring to people in paid-ministry, whether ordained or not. This is a bit of a fiddle I know, but it saves me typing “paid full-time stipendiary ministry” a million times per post.

So, I argued that clergy life is easier than life for the working man or woman.

And I stand by that argument.

Continue reading

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Life is easier for the clergy.

John Holland workers replace track bonds after they were removed for mechanised track work.

John Holland workers replace track bonds after they were removed for mechanised track work.

I guess I’m writing today for the clergy to read this.

My basic argument today is:
Clergy life is easier than lay life.

Fair dinkum.

Now, let’s be clear today: By using the term “clergy” I’m generically referring to paid ministry, whether ordained or not, unless specified otherwise.

You know, I hear it all the time from clergy: “Life is so hard for me. My congregation don’t understand.”

I heard it when I was in paid ministry from my parishioners: “You have it so hard.” or “I couldn’t do what you do”. The ‘intentional interim’ minister explicitly wrote in his draft report to the church about my departure that it was because I could not handle the pressure of ministry life. When I corrected him and made it clear that my resignation was nothing to do with the pressure of ministry life and everything to do with the pressure from cowardly church authorities, he altered his final text to imply the pressures drove me out of the game. Continue reading

Posted in Clergy Life | 22 Comments

The Kit Bag

It’s been a while since I blogged for “Fred”, but I’ve finally made time. “Fred” asked me to talk about The Kit Bag.

The Kit Bag is an essential item for a train crew to carry. And they are heavy!

Most blokes in the company I work for use the Stanley Fat Max tool bag (pictured) because the company, when it was much smaller, issued them as a Christmas bonus to the drivers on the books back then. Many new blokes have copied that idea.

I use a similarly dimensioned Gearsack, a popular piece of motorcycle gear carrying equipment from the 1980s and 1990s.

We have to be fairly self-sufficient on an engine, so food that does not perish is an essential item of kit. We may think we’re just going for a 8- or 11-hour shift but anything could happen: we could end up in a motel or just nowhere easy to get a feed. So I carry my lunch plus some tins of stuff for emergencies. A tin of fruit and some of that tinned braised steak or spaghetti goes well. Cuppa-soup mixes and occasionally noodles make it into my bag. I usually carry some protein bars to assuage hunger.

In keeping with ’emergency provisions’, a change of undies and socks is a must as well, not to mention a first-aid kit and some extra useful medicines. These include Immodium-like medications (Immodium being the trade name for those magic pills that stop the runs) and paracetamol.

A billy and some coffee or tea is useful to carry. And I carry drinking water. But for boiling the billy on the stove in the engine, the water bottles on board are sufficient. But I’d never drink from them without boiling first! The billy is also useful for heating up the tinned food mentioned earlier.

Extra items of clothing must be carried in or on the bag: for infrastructure trains we must carry a hard-hat for entering work-zones. And, of course, the one time you forget a raincoat will be the time you are caught in a downpour. Don’t forget that we’re not always sitting in a nice locomotive cab. Sometimes we are walking the train and if things go wrong, it’s usually in inclement weather.

Most important of all, however, is the paperwork.

Older clergy have observed how younger clergy are bogged down in paperwork these days. It’s the nature both of the litigious and beaurocratic society we live in.

Similarly, older drivers are amazed at the amount of paperwork we must fill in. Mind you, I think the railways always ran on paperwork.

The paperwork is all necessary, however. We must carry all kinds of ‘safeworking forms’. ‘Safeworking’ is not a reference to OH&S but a much older term relating to the safe working of trains over the tracks, or in other words, ensuring that trains don’t bang into each other or pedestrians or road vehicles on crossings and so forth.

Off the top of my head, we have to carry the following forms:

  • Train Order forms (for train order territory, these are the authorities to enter a section),
  • CAN Warning Forms (Condition Affecting the Network),
  • SPA forms (Special Proceed Authority),
  • X2010 (the forms on which we record the details of the locomotives, and every carriage, its weight, whether it’s loaded or empty, the train length and overall weight and your mother’s maiden name).
  • List of temporary speed restrictions (TSRs) for the network.
  • Brake examination certificate book.
  • Specific to our organisation, locomotive prep sheets and locomotive kit audit forms.
  • Also specific to our organisation, is the phone list both for our own personnel but also for every part of the railway we may need to contact in the course of our duties: signal boxes, controllers, customer contacts, locomotive helpdesk numbers and so forth.
  • It’s also helpful to carry the relevant extracts from the TOC manual (Train Operating Conditions, the railway “bible”).
  • Additionally, maps of the track layouts for where you’re going.
  • Furthermore, I carry a wagon inspection manual and various forms I’ve picked up over time to assist in keeping a level head in the event of derailments or other emergencies.

All in all, this adds up to about 15-20 kg.

Which is heavy.

I’ve been trying to economise on weight, so instead of SPA books, CAN books, loco prep books etc I now carry 5 of each – with the discipline required to replenish every time.

In paid ministry I had a “Sunday box” — everything I needed to transfer from my office to home on a Thursday afternoon (Friday being my day off), and then everything to go from home to church on Sunday.

My Sunday box was about 3-4 kg. It’s a big difference!

And using public transport to transfer to- or from- work is nigh-on impossible with such a big piece of kit to carry.

Fat Max

The Stanley Fat Max tool bag

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The ‘office’ for a train driver

(A view from the front of a railway locomotive)

The view from the "fireman's side" of GM27. The "fireman" or assistant train driver sits on the right hand side and the driver on the left. Taken from a stationary train just out of Canley Vale Station, looking south, during trackwork. Taken on 10/01/2011. The right-hand track has been pulled up and the roadbed will be thoroughly rehabilitated before the new track is laid.

I’m going to overlook “Fred’s” questions for a moment and talk about the “office” that a train crew works in – the locomotive.

I’ve worked in all sorts of offices: in the late 80s and early 90s in a couple of smoky camera shops, before smoking was ruled out in the workplace.

I’ve worked in air conditioned “flight decks” where Mainframe Computer Operators ensure the smooth running of a large mainframe two floors below.

I’ve worked in office cube farms and had views over Darling Harbour, out to Sydney Heads, and the back of the head of the bloke in front of me.

I’ve sat at the back of lecture rooms for 4 years of an IT degree and another 4 years of a Bachelor of Divinity.

I’ve sat in an enclosed car port looking over a green backyard and I’ve sat in an old house converted to a Parish Centre, looking over the church’s BBQ and the kids’ play area.

So I like to think I’m adaptable to different kinds of offices. A lot of train drivers from other companies look at our locomotives and criticise them because they are generally older. Some of our locomotives in daily service were built in 1952! And the crews from the other mobs have come to expect the things our old girls lack, like air conditioning that always works without dripping water on the floor (or into a bucket), and all sorts of amenities like microwave ovens and stereo systems. Sooks.

But they do the job and are not unpleasant. They are air-conditioned and modern seating has been installed. The noise is not at all unpleasant.

In Australia (with the exception of those have-to-be-different Queenslanders, and the USA-inspired iron ore railways in north-west Western Australia), train drivers sit on the left-hand side of a locomotive or passenger train. This is because the railway signals are usually on the left-hand side and it aids with sighting them.

Modern diesel-electric locomotives have fantastic visibility, and most of our older locos do as well. But in the days of steam, the driver could only see down his side of the engine, so the signals had to be on the same side as the driver. Given that our trains run on the left-hand track in multiple track areas, that’s the side the driver sits on.

So, as an assistant train driver I sit on the right-hand-side – or where an Australian car driver sits.

Well, that’s the position of my ‘office chair’ sorted out. The seats themselves have armrests and headrests and recline. This is not pandering to ‘lazy loco crews’ but allows for helpful changes of sitting position when one is sitting for a long time on a job.

Our older ‘Bulldog’-styled locomotives have a lot of styling from the automotive industry. That’s nor surprising, because the US company that designed the “bulldog” is EMD, a division of General Motors. So we have locomotives with ‘window winders’ like cars have, ashtrays like the old Holdens had (but no smoking is allowed, of course!), and even glove boxes.

The actual nose area is like a storage room, with a door separating it from the cabin. Behind that door is a treasure-trove of items like cleaning equipment, emergency safety equipment and day-to-day safety equipment.

At the rear of the cab is the locomotive’s electrical cabinet, which is a convenient location because sometimes it needs to be accessed!

Of course, the engine compartment is where it all happens. On locomotives with full-width bodies, the compartment is actually the engine room. The diesel engine is started and stopped in there and it provides access to the cab at the other end, if the locomotive is double-ended. On locomotives that are ‘hood units’, that is, without full width bodies and a catwalk on either side of the bodywork, the various parts of the engine are accessed through doors in the body panels. Some crews prefer accessing the engine through the hood doors; my preference is a full-width engine room where I can access what I need without flipping open a million doors and locking them shut again afterwards.

Somewhere on the locomotive is a handbrake or two – depending on the locomotive it’s either in the cab or at the back of the engine room.

And most importantly, each of our full-width locomotives have toilets. The GM class locomotives (from which the lead photo for this entry was taken) have porta-potties like people use in caravans. The ex-Victorian S and B classes have proper toilet compartments with air-operated flushers (that wakes up a sleepy crew member when he uses one for the first time!). I am not that au fait with all the facilities on the other locos but our hood units don’t cater for such ablution needs. What’s why it’s not uncommon to tell your mate you need to ‘check the couplings’ from time to time.

Most locomotive cabs have fridges and all have a hotplate upon which you can boil the billy (I’ll describe the ‘kit bag’ in a forthcoming post). More modern locomotives even have a microwave oven.

Another feature of more modern locomotives is that they have a sound system – a car tape deck/radio or even a car CD player/radio.

Speaking of radios, the driver has a specially modified satellite telephone which is linked to the open channel radio system (known as “WB” – I’ll explain that another time). This setup also allows for satellite tracking of a train so its owner/operator can know where it is at a given time.

Of course, the driver has his ‘control stand’ where the throttle and direction controls are located (and on the more modern gear, all the electrical switches he needs); there is a separate brake stand for the air brake equipment. He has a ‘dash board’ with all the air gauges and the ammeter which shows how many amps the loco is pulling as it picks up its load.

Nearly every locomotive has a couple of 12v outlets like a car cigarette lighter outlet, so some crew members bring laptops and inverters for times when the train is ‘put away’ (idle) in a siding or otherwise cannot proceed. Portable radios and mobile phones are often charged throughout a shift as well!

Moving from air-conditioned office towers and data centres to studies in my home and/or makeshift offices in old halls or residences was a transition I had to make when entering paid ministry. I survived. I am enjoying this transition much more!

All in all, it’s not the Ritz, but it’s not bad! And unlike a lot of church offices, it doesn’t have rats!

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Shift work on the railway

One of “Fred’s” suggestions was to speak about:

Shift rules, overtime levelling, how much in advance do you know where you’ll be working for a given shift, fatigue rules, etc.

I’m a bit nervous writing this entry and I confess it’s not well written, because I’m talking about my employer and I don’t want to step out of line with them, especially as a new hire!

There should be a picture here of the Amdahl 5890 CPU. It was a clone of the IBM 3090.

Amdahl's 5890 CPU, that I cut my teeth on, was a clone of the IBM 3090. This is just the CPU - hard disc storage and comms were in separate boxes.

Shift work is part-and-parcel of life on the railway. I’m

not a stranger to shift work, having spent 2-3 years of my IT career on shift operating mainframe computers. Mainframes are those really cool computers with CPUs the size of a panel van and strings of ‘DASD’ or hard disc drives, with separate computers for handling communications and the zillions of computer terminals that access the mainframe. So no, I can’t fix your PC. PCs were always the means by which we connected to the mainframe. The propeller-heads fix PCs.

Anyways, your typical IT Data Centre shift roster provides 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, 365 days-a-year computer services and ‘data warehousing’. There are typically 4 teams on a roster and the rotation works on a 4, 8, or 12-week cycle with plenty of notice. So life can be planned.

IT shift hours are typically 7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm and 11pm-7am if the site runs 8 hour shifts or 7-7 (am/pm and pm/am!) if it runs 12-hour shifts.

Life on the railway, however, depends on business demand and can change at a moment’s notice. Not that I’m complaining because I knew this before I signed on. But I comment on it for the contrast. There are not set shift start- or end-times and a shift’s length may depend on the nature of the train being worked and whether the crew will be relieved by another crew or are stabling (‘parking’) the train. There are not 4 ‘shift teams’ but many two-person train crews. A crew could be made up of a driver and assistant driver or of a driver and a driver. And there is a big difference in how the two types of crews may be rostered.

Now, these comments are reasonably generic as different companies operate differently and different commodities to be shifted dictate different operational procedures, and therefore different shift patterns.

I’ll comment on the business unit I’m currently working for at the company, which is the provision of engines and crews for work trains (ie track maintenance trains) and other short-notice ‘short haul’ work. The success of this part of the company is based on its ability to meet demand at virtually no notice and we are successful at doing it.

Most shifts are, in fact, known well in advance. However, on rare occasions ‘advance notice’ could be as little as a few days. Other shifts might be notified during the ‘notification’ period on the day before.

<warning: the next few paragraphs seem a bit dense but bear with me. the words in bold are included in a short glossary immediately after the paragraphs.>

Our Rosters are currently produced by the General Manager-Operations and he bases the roster on the work that the company has bid for and been awarded. Our rosters are produced so that two fortnights are provided in the roster in advance, and attached to this is the AMBA.

So, the roster will tell you when your book-off days are, when your TBA days are and when your shifts start on days you are working. The roster is person-based.

On the other hand, the AMBA is train based and gives details of the trains: when the train whistles out, who the crew is (so you know who your mate is), what locomotive/s you’re working, a basic indicative timetable (emphasis indicative!) and who your relief is, if there is to be a relief crew, and (of course) who you’re relieving if you are relieving someone.

Time for a quick glossary of the words in bold. I suggest you read the glossary and look-back over the last three paragraphs!

AMBA is an old telegraph code which refers to the train operating plan. It doesn’t stand for anything, but translates to .- — -… .- in Morse code. That might be meaningful to Morse Coders. I don’t know (or care).

book-off days are your days off – weekends, if you will. You can make plans when you know your book-off day, although the company depends on employee flexibility. There are rules in the Enterprise Agreement about how many you get and how the shifts might interact with them. So, you can’t be rostered for a job that starts at 11pm on the night before your book-off day and have it finish at 9am on the morning of your book-off day.

mate does not refer to Aussie bloke-friends, nor to train-driver husbandry but to the co-worker on the locomotive. At the moment, due to changes in the business and employment base, we are assigned ‘regular mates’ so we always work with the same ‘mate’. But I must be offensive because I lost my first regular mate and the other one is on annual leave for the entire fortnight I’m on with him. LOL.

relief does not refer to the ablution facilities available to employees, but the relief or replacement of one crew with another at shift-change.

TBA day is part of what we call ‘blank-line rostering’. That is, it’s not a day off and you are expected to expect to be notified at the last minute of a job that day. Notification rules ensure there is fair notice but part of the success of my company is that it has a flexible workforce that can respond to customer needs quickly and effectively. TBA days are, in our case, the means by which we can achieve this. At the end of the day, the success of the company guarantees our employment, so we need to be a flexible workforce in order to be a flexible and successful company, which in turn means we get an income. TBA stands for ‘to be advised’. No advice = stay at home. Or a failure to check the email inbox for the latest roster!

whistle out is not a term I’ve heard used at work; it’s an archaic term from the steam era, but it refers to a train (or engine) that has been prepared departing its yard or depot ready to go about its business.

So, I have a roster and AMBA, and these are sent out frequently. Sometimes they are revised several times a day; sometimes 3-4 days might go by with no changes. TBA days are usually advised by telephone and sometimes never make it to the AMBA.

So far in this entry I’ve covered “Fred’s” questions about shift rules and advance notice. I’ll address what he called “shift levelling” and fatigue management after that.

“Shift Levelling” is “Fred’s” terms for something I can’t think of the proper name for. Basically, we’re talking about overtime. Overtime is a novelty for me: as an IT professional we worked on a salary and ‘overtime’ was not paid. As a contractor/consultant in IT, I charged by the hour with heavily penalty rates for weekend work as a means to discourage weekend work, rather than cash in on it! As a stipendiary ministry worker I received a stipend with no stipulation of hours worked–but that meant many hours not few hours in a week!

Basically, our standard fortnight is 76 hours. We are paid for 76 hours every fortnight, whatever hours we work. It is called a guarantee. So far this sounds like a salary rather than wage, but it is not so. The company has an “hours bank” and every six months there is a reconciliation of our “hours bank”. Six months worth of 76-hour fortnights is 988 hours (13 x 76). If our total hours for the 13 fortnights exceed 988 hours, we are paid overtime. If our hours turn out to be under the 988 then we do not return the money! This is the guarantee. It is part of our company’s Enterprise Agreement and other rail companies work differently. However it is a system that looks after the worker’s interests, arguably better than company’s. Who’d be a boss?!

There is, of course, the thorny matter of ‘barracks working’, in which you work a train to a destination far from home, go to ‘barracks’ (which in the old days was literally a barracks building with few comforts, but these days is typically a motel room), and work back home on the next shift (or stay out for more shifts away from home). But that is not a lot different from other jobs in which travel is involved and even in paid ministry there are conferences to attend which involve overnight absences from the family.

Traditionally engine crews have been paid all sorts of shift allowances and a thing called a tonnage allowance, which is related to tonnage hauled but I don’t understand it so I shan’t explain it.

Our wage is aggregated which means that we are paid the same hourly rate whether we work overnight on a public holiday or 9-5 on a weekday. I don’t mind it because it’s a lot simpler! It includes weekend, night and public holiday penalties as well as tonnage allowances all aggregated into one hourly rate.

It’s a good system for the worker and the aggregation makes it easier for the boss. As a wage-earner I enjoy the fact that we are on a guarantee. But I cringe when I am spending time at home on TBAs and only work a few hours a fortnight. I cringe because I’m still getting a full wage and I worry the company might find me unnecessary in the longer term if they keep me at home forever! Many colleagues, however, like the ‘paid to stay at home’ lifestyle and have no conscience or worry about it.

As for fatigue management, I’m not citing chapter and verse of the transport safety act but basically we can’t work more than eleven days straight. This applies to all rail-safety work so I cannot volunteer at the Zig Zag Railway on the twelth day after working for the company for eleven days.

There are maximum shift lengths too, and these depend on the make up of the crew. A crew can’t drive a train for more than eleven hours if the crew consists of a driver and assistant driver but a driver-driver crew can work a maximum of twelve hours.

A minimum of eleven hours must transpire between sign-off and sign-on at one’s home depot or minimum of seven hours if the crew is working away from home and books off into barracks (which these days is a motel room).

The reality is that the rosters are a lot more worker-friendly than these minimum standards imply. And the minimum standards far exceed the road transport industry. It is ironic that if I were a truck driver I could work long hours, say, overnight, and then work on the Zig Zag all day, then work more long hours. This is because I’m working in two industries, not one! But I can’t do that as a rail worker, such is the rail safety legislation.

Needless to say, the rail industry is far safer than the road transport industry. As they say, I am more likely to be maimed, injured or killed going to/from work than I am at work.

Having said that, at 40 I find the shift work tires me out more than it did at 22. But I still enjoy it. I also find it difficult to do one-off night shifts. In IT, a minimum of three nights was my experience, so I’d sleep all day and the body clock would adjust to a point. A one-off night, on the other hand, knocks a bloke around!

But having said that, shift work in my younger years made me a bit of a night owl. I don’t mind signing on any time between midday and 6am, but signing on between 6am and midday is less appealing. It’s nice seeing the sun come up and the world wake up, whether it’s at the end of a night shift or the commencement of a day shift. It’s enjoyable working overnight. The world is a little quieter. I think I dislike the 6am – midday sign ons because of the heavier traffic from Leura, where I live, to Chullora, where our home base is! At any rate I’m happy to do what I have to do to serve my earthly masters, in the hope that by doing so I might please my heavenly master.

I’m sure this is all as clear as mud, but please leave any questions and comments in the comments section.

How does this compare with clergy life? Well, I am no longer master of my own hours such as when I work and what I do as I was when in paid ministry. Archbishop Peter Jensen has long lamented that the internet can make clergy appear busy when they are really lazy and in their office surfing the internet. That was not me, but he may have a point. The bottom line is we work unsupervised as to how we spend our time! Yes train crewing is unsupervised, but there are certain indicators of whether we do our jobs or not which the clergy do not have to force discipline on them.

On the other hand I no longer have night time call-outs to death beds, or regular weekly events like Bible Study, prayer meeting or church. Let me clarify that… I still attend church and plan to attend Bible Study and prayer meetings as shifts allow… but not as the Rector of the church! Locomotives do not need visitation and freight wagons don’t whinge about you.

In other words, whether clergy are hard working (as I am convinced nearly all are) or lazy (as some charge them to be), they never leave ‘work’ behind. Even if they work from an office detached from the home, work ever lurks. Some have (unhelpfully) over ‘professionalised’ their roles, but there are still concerns over Mabel’s cancer and the Joneses’ marriage and so forth that always stalk a paid minister. In this role, I sign off and go home and forget everything until the next shift.

So in terms of ‘quality of life’ I am better off now than in ministry (or even in IT), and I ask ‘workers’ to be mindful of this aspect of their pastor’s life.

At this point it’s tempting for clergy to reinforce how hard done by they are compared with workers, so it’s important to note that my ability as a member of a train crew to leave work at work is increasingly rare in our society. As an IT professional I carried a pager 24/7/365 and could–and would–be called out constantly out-of-hours, and still have to work a full day and more on the next day. Anyone with small children will relate to that! On top of all this was 20 hours or more a week spent serving the local church. I therefore found that entering paid ministry reduced the demands on ‘my’ time while allowing me to increase my flexibility to meet family commitments. I could attend pre-school for my daughter and make up the time elsewhere, for instance. My rector when I was an assistant minister, Ian Rienits, always took into account the commute time of his parishioners, as well as volunteer hours at church on top of the volunteer’s job commitments, as a guide to how many hours he strived for. And it was more than 45 (see my previous post)!!!

It was also a very great privilege to live in a Rectory and have guests come through our home, to be a part of our earthly family as well as part of our church and heavenly family. We can do this as common garden-variety church members, but it was different when in ministry.

So I do not want people ‘in ministry’ and people ‘not in ministry’ (of the paid kind) to read this and think they are hard done by and/or the ‘other side’ has it easier. Life this side of (paid) ministry is just different. I enjoy the differences. I remember fondly the benefits we enjoyed in paid ministry as well as enjoy the different benefits we receive now.

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G’Day from the Footplate

G’Day everyone! After 4 years of Moore Theological College, 2.5 years as an assistant minister and 4 years
as the incumbent of two different parishes, God in his providence saw me out of work and looking for a new career, staring down my 40th birthday.

This is not a good place to be, with skills in IT that made me a ‘dinosaur’ and few other kinds of organisations willing to train a 40 year old in a new skill. But I’ve always been a train enthusiast, and a career on the railways looked promising. The jargon word for a train enthusiast is gunzel, from the movie “Malcolm”, but rail employees also refer to us as “train w@!kers”. Like the term Christian, the word gunzel entered the lexicon as a term of
derision which the gunzels themselves adopted and wear with pride as a self appellation.

So being a gunzel I decided to head down that path. In fact, it had been my accidental “back up plan” made in jest when I never thought I’d need a “back up plan”, some twelve months before my resignation. I had planned to work in paid ministry until I was 70, but on an engine ride with a friend in 2009 I said flippantly “if I ever leave [paid] ministry I’ll pursue this career”. When my resignation was announced, he held me to it!

Anyways, life as a shift-working worker is vastly different to life in a Rectory so another mate “Fred”, a nerd who is a gunzel as well as a senior lay person involved in the Anglican
Diocese of Sydney suggested I blog my “return to work” for the benefit of anyone who wants to know what it’s like being a newbie in the rail industry as well as anyone who wants to know what a transition from clergy life to worker life is like. I agreed, and
these two anecdotes I have heard from others that might illustrate why:

Firstly, I remember an older minister
saying frequently, “I know what it’s like for you workers, I
worked for nine months between school and [theological] college 30 years

Secondly there
was the younger minister who, wanting to model to his men the idea
of not working too hard, announced one Sunday he was taking an
extra day off in the following week because he had worked 45
hours in the previous week!

Neither example played well to the troops in the pews.

As for me, I tried to be sensitive to
working men’s situations in my ministry time because of these experiences over a decade ago. I knew what it was like, in IT, to work on a 7-day 24-hour rotating roster of shift work. I also knew what it was like to be on day work and be paid a salary for 37.5 hours a
week yet work 50, 60, 70 or even 90 hours a week – and not by choice – yet still make time to attend Bible Study, prayer meetings and give 12-13 hours of myself on a Sunday, plus preparation. But the biggest wake-up call was after I finished first year at college
and the company I’d consulted with before my studies called me up for a few weeks of the long break and sent me to Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney for some software upgrades for a major telecommunications company. It was like being hit over the head with a wet fish to realize how, in a year, I’d lost touch with the juggle of working with involvement in a church. And I was single then. Much easier.

So in the hope I may help some be better ministers and others be better lay people I offer this blog. My other blog is at but this one is specific for this purpose. I’m open to suggestions for topics but here are Fred’s suggestions for getting started:

  • Photo of yourself in your new uniform
    (perhaps contrasted with a ‘before’ photo of you in clergy collar
    and surplice)
  • The steps needed to become a
    train driver.
  • What’s in your kit
  • Shift rules, overtime levelling, how much
    in advance do you know where you’ll be working for a given shift,
    fatigue rules, etc.
  • Are the stresses on your
    family different because of shift work?
  • (Optional) Financial impact (expressed as the change in
    your savings, rather than absolute dollars, eg ‘as a rector we
    broke even every month, now we break even as well, but we’ve had to
    cut out our daily caviar quota.’

I plan to cover the as well as a few other topics like “a day in the life” etc. Please add comments for other topics. About me: I am Glenn Farrell, and I work for a private freight railway company based in NSW. It is one of the smaller private (freight) railway operators in NSW but is one of the, if not the, most successful of these businesses and it is a privilege to work for them. I was, and still am, an ordained Anglican clergyman with an Archbishop’s Authority to Officiate.

This blog WILL NOT be a church or clergy bash, or for that matter a laity bash. I’m not going to address the circumstances of my resignation from paid ministry, except that my
wife and I did not plan to resign and I was not excluded from ministry because of sin on my part but because of political machinations in my parish and a failure of the hierarchy to stand up for what is right.

Rather, the blog’s purpose is to inform, that lay people might better understand clergy life and clergy might better understand lay life.


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