Excuse the expression! I really do spend too much time with teenagers, both at work and at home... For those among you uninitiated in youth dialect, "up yourself" roughly translates as "self obsessed" or having a strong sense of your own importance. Stephen from, The Problem with Religion, responded to my post on ordination by suggesting that many vicars do have a misplaced sense of themselves as being in some way "special", perhaps above the ordinary run of humanity by virtue of their priesthood.
I must admit that I have met some vicars for whom I could say that this was true, but the thing that I notice most about the vicars I have actually got to know is how ordinary they are. I don't think vicars are more prudish, less sinful, more easily shocked or in any way different from the common run of humanity. They also share exactly the same failings and weaknesses and have all the problems and difficulties that beset everyone, including problems with their relationships, children, addictions, depression and doubts about their faith. In my experience many vicars hate the way that they are treated as a different class of human being the moment they start wearing a dog collar. But maybe I've just been lucky...
If you are not a vicar, I wonder how you see vicars? I am afraid I very much believe in the priesthood of all believers, I see vicars as just ordinary punters like the rest of us, they just happen to have been called to serve in the church, as opposed to in secular life. It's really not their fault! Having said this, I do sometimes meet priests in whom I sense a depth of holiness, but this quality is not confined to priests and vicars.
I do sometime wonder how vicars cope with certain aspects of their jobs. I would hate to have to decide whether I would marry a certain couple ( say in the case of divorce and remarriage.) I don't really see why it would be any of my business to make a decision that judged that relationship. I don't frankly see why it is the business of anyone, vicar or not (you can see I just wouldn't "work" in the church!) I would also hate to have to deal with any questions about suffering, especially from anyone who had been through something I hadn't. I would so hate to utter some platitude. I'd also be conscious that if I opened my mouth and caused hurt and pain by saying the wrong thing, some people might think that my view somehow reflected God's, instead of realising it was just me and that, not being God, I just screw up and get it wrong!
I have met one or two vicars, even the nice ones, who think that when confronted with people's problems or difficulties they need to come up with solutions instead of listening. I personally rarely find other people's solutions to my difficulties very helpful, especially if they have never been in my position and have not really thought, or prayed, or lived through that experience. This is particularly true of sensitive areas, such as sexual abuse, where people sometimes turn to a priest who is just not equipped to offer appropriate advice. I don't generally look to a priest or vicar for advice on how to live my life in terms of right or wrong. I consult God and my conscience. I really believe the church should aim to draw people to God, and only tell people how to live their lives if and when they are asked.
I have a fairly positive perspective on vicars, ( which does kind of beg the question of why I go through churches like some people go through whisky...) Perhaps I owe my ability to be forgiving of the clergy to my dad, who was a vicar, and a pretty cool one in my opinion. Dad was never vicarish in his parenting, in fact one of his favourite saying was, "Oh well, let's save the sermons for Sunday"- and actually the sermons on Sunday were never lectures, they just really made you think, but they never made you think badly of yourself, or anyone else.
That's how it should be.