From the service on 25 July



A Reflection from Kim Topham



Today we hear about the mother of James and John and how she makes a plea for her sons to be able to sit either side of Jesus in the new kingdom. She is concerned about the hierarchical placement of her sons. And mothers do that don’t they – My daughter’s a solicitor or my son’s a doctor. My mother loves nothing more than dropping it into the conversation that her daughter is now a priest. She’s not mentioned me for the last 58 years, but now, it’s every opportunity she gets. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your children.

But in this scenario, Zebedee’s wife is trying to place her sons in a position next to Jesus, so that presumably they are in a higher position than the others. Jesus reacts with, you don’t know what you are asking, you don’t really want them to do what I must to do. He then goes on to squash this idea of greatness and tells them there will be no lording it over each other, but they must all serve each other.


This happens in the church today; many people think that becoming a priest suddenly give you supernatural powers. Or that it elevates you to a position of greatness. I have had it said to me, ‘Oh you’re going up in the world’, or ‘What position will you hold now and who will be above you and who will be below you’. It doesn’t work that way. In most organisations the promotional steps go up, up and up.      In the church they go down, down and down. Our duty is to serve God and our community in the best way we can. There is no power with our title, only responsibility, and when gaining another title, it is only a sideways step not an upwards step.

Whilst we were on retreat the other week, we were given a pack with our timetables in, information for the cathedral, an emergency bar of chocolate from the bishop and a copy of a poem which I would like to read to you.


Now none of us were ordained as vicars, but it uses that term as most people know what it means. The things listed in this poem says nothing of the baptisms, weddings, funerals and services, planned and led, but instead lists numerous other expectations people have of their vicar. There are some presumptions and some truths in the following. And I would just like you to think about this poem if any of you ever think that becoming a priest is ever a way of going up in the world –


I am the vicar, I am.
I am the pastor, the carer, the listener
the one with the time to drop everything and
I also understand global politics and immigration and
I am the one who knows about Afghanistan
and cares about ‘our boys’
and I care about speed-humps, graffiti, litter
and the positioning of zebra crossings near schools.


I am passionate about school assemblies
council meetings, mums and toddlers and also
I am good at one-to-one and small groups and
I listen and empathise and at the same time
I am the one who plans and strategizes and
I am the one who understands budgets and decides if we can buy any staples or replace the heating system.
I am the vicar, I am.


I am the quiet reflective prayer and
I am the speaker, the enthuser, the motivator, the learned teacher and
I can engage a room of 10, 50, 300 people with no problem because
I am the one who relates particularly well to children, older people
the middle-aged, the jobless, the employed, the doctors, teenagers, and I am the one who is always one step ahead and
I am the one who is endearingly disorganised.
I am the vicar, I am.


I care passionately about church politics
I care passionately about domestic abuse
I care passionately about the plight of Anglo Catholics
women priests, gay clergy, evangelicals and
I listen to the pope, the archbishop and Rob Bell.


I am up-to-date with theological developments.
I understand the history of the reformation
the armed forces, the war, the government
the deanery, the Jewish background of Jesus and
I care about the excluded and I manage my admin and
I know how to access children’s services.
I am the vicar, I am.


I am the one in whom trust is placed
I am the one in whom grumbles are placed
I am the one who is always talking to everyone else
I am the one who models worship
marriage, family, gardening, conversation, baking
prayer, listening, talking, planning.


I often get it wrong.
I am the one who has to keep my doubts under wraps and
I am also the one who is vulnerable and
dependable, stable, trustworthy.

I am the one who chairs meetings
I am the one who manages group discussions
I am the manager of an organisation that employs only me
I am the volunteer co-ordinator
the opinion co-ordinator
the trespasser on the territory of people who have been around a lot longer than me and will be there after me.
I understand the heating system
the financial system
the rota system.                         


I love committees!


I drink tea with older people
And coffee with younger people
I listen to stories of bus routes and hospital visits and
I believe in transforming our community through the power of Jesus.


I am the one who is very tired.
I am the one who hates wearing dresses but still smiles
and would love to be muddy all the time.


I am the one who only works one day a week.


I am the one who loves this job.
I am the one who is making it up as I go along.
I am the one who would not swap this for anything.
I am the vicar, I am.

© 2009 Kevin Lewis