the diary game

We all play the diary game, and none more so than the clergy.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to respond to people without poring over the diary – to be able to meet up with parishioners on the spur of the moment – yes I’d love to come round and discuss x with you – let’s just do it right now!

But more likely, we have the – well, I’m busy tomorrow afternoon and evening, and Friday I’m away; Saturday’s out, Sunday’s full, Monday’s no good, etc. etc; how about three weeks today?

The art of good clergy diary management is don’t pack it too full, to keep slack for ’emergencies’, but that’s hard to live by, especially (I imagine) if you’re full time.

Once someone I didn’t know very well asked to come and see me in a particularly busy week and I leafed through the diary and wondered about squeezing them in suddenly. But I had a feeling it might take some energy so I found a freer, better slot, and that was five days away. The person in question seemed rather shocked at the wait, agreed to the appointment, canceled a day later.

I made a mental note to assess another time if the request is urgent (not many are). Soon I was asked for an hour by a couple who assured me that, yes, it was urgent, could they come and discuss something regarding a death, and looking at my squeezed diary, I regretfully gave them a slot at the dog end of an afternoon in which I was celebrating a birthday lunch.

The lunch arrived late, the whole time I had to watch the clock, couldn’t give my attention to my lunch partner, and when I got back home to receive the people who’d booked to see me, they were also late, and when they did show up it was in no way urgent, and I felt I’d ruined the afternoon.

Everyone has a full diary these days, even retirees, but I’ve come to realise that there’s an art to time management and there’s a way to change your perspective about what looks like unpleasant diary busyness, to redeem the time, as it were.

It’s the difference between ‘Chronos’ time and ‘kairos’ time. ‘Chronos’ is the bare 24 hours in the day, roughly 8 of which you will need to be comatose, leaving the rest to be filled in with manic scribbles and crossings out in your heavy as a brick Church Diary, or, if you’re technical, Google calendar thingy.

(Maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in another meeting at 7, if I don’t have any actual supper…..)

Kairos time, however, is God’s time, and once you start to notice the moments of kairos time, i.e. stop and notice it’s all a gift anyway, you can even find yourself resting for a second, giving thanks, living in the moment and receiving it as refreshment, even if it’s only 15 minutes.

I had a kairos moment waiting for a space at the Crematorium (yes, ALL the Funeral Officiant spaces were full – which was odd – since there were only three of us there).

The diary for that afternoon had looked bad – funeral, Crem, double dentist, 20 miles driving, cooking supper, Lent Course with complicated AV equipment, all in a shortish space of time. But I arrived at the Crem 15 minutes before I thought I would. 15 minutes of kairos time.

I sat in the car, window down, sun warm, looking at the blossom and thought, ‘this is a redeemed moment’. On paper I was hassled. In reality, there was a moment.

A moment of grace, of thanks, of remembering time is a gift I can receive and cherish, not a commodity that is scarce, or something to be manipulated into tiny free slots in a Church Diary or stressed over by a too busy head.

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