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 http://www.michelleandglenn.com 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.



About tdrev

Follower of Jesus. Locomotive Driver.
This entry was posted in Editorial and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to G’Day from the Footplate

  1. FlowCoef says:

    Good to “take it and move on” rather than BROOD over wrong done, I think. Enjoy locomot-ing.

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