A week in a Minister’s life

A week in the life of Uniting Church Minister Rev Deacon Wendy Elson is filled with plenty of variety.

Rev Deacon Wendy Elson, Minister at Wonthaggi and Inverloch UC

This week looks quiet when I look in my diary and that always makes me nervous. Justifiably, because these are the weeks that have the potential space to get very busy.

6am alarm: Up and about with time and space for a quick walk around the block and my usual 20min prayer meditation.

8am: Leave home for the services at Wonthaggi at 9.30am and then Inverloch at 11am.

2pm: After the two church services and morning tea, I go home and make some phone calls. I have a special announcement to make this week. More on that later. Today our wonderful families did a very creative play. They got together for tea last night and wrote it on the theme for the day. And it was just the best fun. Even the ‘Sun’ character was dancing in the sky with joy. And there was cake which the children served to the adults with such joy. I am still buzzing.
One little piece of special joy this morning, a child in the play brought in their guinea pig to be a character and another bought her chook. I cease to be surprised really by these joyous moments, last week a stray chook (from who knows where) walked up and put its head in the door! Such timing though, as I had just started reading a passage from Matthew, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”! A little visit from the Divine.
I have a wonderful text conversation which starts on Sunday afternoon and continues through Monday, about some aspects of the sermon which invite enquiry. I prepare a little for the coming week which has several things which need good focus.
Another young man who is in text contact regularly asks me (again) if things in my life have been as tough as his life is just now. I have plans to spend a special celebration day with him in the coming weeks and I wonder if he is nervous about it. I first had contact with him through his request to Presbytery to send him pamphlets. He is a collector of these, so I regularly drop some into his mail box.
The son of one of our elderly members rings to say she has gone into aged care and to ask if I would visit this week to ease her concerns about feeling isolated.

6.30am: I often sleep a little longer than the alarm’s 6am alert on Mondays. The adrenaline dump after Sunday services gets me every time.

7.15am: And so Monday starts in my preferred way, with a swim in the bay and some meditation.

9am: I hit the books. Monday and Friday are the main days I research and write my PhD thesis about the intersection between disability and theology. I am exploring several Biblical narratives as tools to better understand how we regard disability and to empower people through affording them the dignity they deserve.
It is important to me through my ordination as a Deacon, to stand with those who are marginalised in our society, to understand the Gospel from the underside. The view from the margins is a vital part of the church and these are prophetic voices that the church does well to hear.
Having been a school chaplain for many years, it was this yearning, this call to the marginalised that led me to seek ordination. A few phone calls and preparational items interrupt me, but I won’t admit that here.

Rev Deacon Wendy Elson spends part of Tuesday afternoon preparing for her Sunday services at Wonthaggi and Inverloch.

6am: Another blessed morning with meditation, but no swim as I leave early to conduct a funeral at Inverloch at 10am. It is lovely to hear the family speak so lovingly about their mum and nan. We go on to the cemetery, where we say our farewells to this dear lady, and the family are happy that they have been able to share their memories of her love and care for them. The usual Tuesday morning coffee at the bakery with the Wonthaggi folks continues quite happily without me apparently.

2pm: I arrive home. I start the preparation for the services on Sunday, having listened to the By the Well podcast as I drove home from the funeral. I spend some time looking at the Figtree Worship resource and then send the music ideas off to both congregation’s musicians.
I have phone and text discussion with some people about when is a good time to welcome them into membership. As there are six of them involved it has been hard to get a time that we will all be there. They would love to do it together so they can tell everyone about what has prompted them to the decision to do this and we can have a special celebration.
On re-checking my diary earlier today I notice I have the monthly rostered service at Rose Lodge Aged Care on Friday morning so I check that I have something I can use to focus our worship using the Figtree Resource. Lots of phone calls and emails about various things later, I turn the computer off for dinner.

9.30pm: Off to bed, which is about the usual time.

5.30am: I wake a little early today so I beat the alarm and get up. I am on the Interchurch Council roster for the reflection for the newspaper so, after a meditation, I have time to finish it off. I get a short walk and I leave at 8.30am to join the team making sandwiches with donated bread at the Inverloch church. These go in the freezer for brekky club at Inverloch Primary School two mornings each week. Then more folks come to the church and we sit together over coffee, and also cake because Nola and Pam have been baking (we look so hard done by on the rare times they haven’t done so). Our conversation is usually about what is happening in the community and our daily lives. Wednesday afternoon this week is Presbytery Relations Committee and I am glad that on this occasion it is on Zoom. That saves a two hour drive over to Traralgon but the down side is that we don’t get to see each other in person.

4pm: Meeting finishes so I get to look over the relevant lectionary in preparation for my turn on the Figtree Worship Resource roster. I start an idea for this and get caught up in it. It sits as a draft to clean up after it has fermented a bit.

6pm: I turn off the computer and put it all out of my head. I note that as an aspirational thought.

7am: This week my Thursday has a slower start and I get in a swim after my meditation. I have time for further preparation for the service.

Noon: I head to the church at Inverloch for our Combined Church Council meeting. There is much to discuss and we meet from 1pm-4.30pm. I drive one of the members home as I am aware she has some pastoral issues to chat about.

6.30pm: The church is set up and I go to pick up a lady who is coming to our Yarning Circle at Wonthaggi which starts at 7pm. It goes until around 9.30pm. The closing time is never set as our conversation is between First and Second Peoples and one of my first learnings was that we do not limit the conversation. Everyone is listened to so that we do not miss the wisdom by moving on too quickly. It is such precious time of deep sharing, listening and truth telling.
Our focus symbol tonight is a bowl of cleansing water. Of course, we spend quite some time on the Uluru Statement and the Voice referendum. Some of the people in attendance are wider community members, some are from the Reconciliation group that several of our members attend. I was glad that our Yarning Circle hasn’t clashed this month with the Interchurch Council meeting as it sometimes does.

10.30pm I arrive home and take a while to unwind.

11pm: Bed time. I wonder if I dare sleep a little later tomorrow since the service at Rose Lodge Aged Care starts at 10.30am.

A service at Rose Lodge Aged Care in Wonthaggi is a special part of Friday for Rev Deacon Wendy Elson.

7.30am: Up and at ’em. A quick swim and today I don the short wetsuit as the weather is cooling. While the bay (Westernport) still feels OK, I realise there will be a few less swims each week when late autumn and winter assert themselves. I remember to do a RAT test before my meditation so I don’t have to sit outside when I get to Rose Lodge.

10.30am: The service starts and it’s such a joy to see the very dear faces, especially those from our own congregations. There are around 12 participants with four from our own church as well as two of our congregation members assisting.

12.30pm: On the way home I call into another aged care place to see our member who has just gone there to live. She is comfortable and finds her adjustment easier when she thinks about how much relief has been felt by her family. It is not her ideal option for life, but she knows it is the right time for this move.

1.30pm: I hit the books, conscious that precious thesis time has been used differently today. But there is give and take in the ministry calendar and I will ensure there is balance.
One of my ponderings around balance is in regard to that announcement I made on Sunday. I have just incorporated a new role into our way of being church. I will reduce my (0.8- 4 days) each week in the congregational placement to 0.4 and am taking on the (0.4) role of Spiritual Care Co-ordinator at Bass Coast Health.
I feel an interesting mix of excitement and overwhelm. Our wonderful way of working in Gippsland in Figtree teams has led to the exploration of this possibility and I am trusting the gift of this new ministry will flourish with the assistance of others stepping into our congregational space. And our congregations are excited by what they see as a gift for their ministry.
Even before this, people have been stepping up and asking to be more involved in the congregational pastoral care. Releasing me for this wider Diaconal ministry offers us so much and so the review of ministry priorities is in full swing. I wonder what the coming weeks will look like as transitions and adjustments are made. Oh well, I will live in this week for now. And if I am lucky, I will have Saturday off, but then that thesis will not write itself.

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