Mary Jo woke (as many ministers like her), a little later than usual since, after all, it was her day off and after a jampacked Sunday, she enjoyed the guilty pleasure of still being in her jammies knowing that everyone else was long up and off to work. With a cuppa in her hand she returned to bed in the knowledge that the day was hers (well mostly hers since the undertaker was bound to call at some point) but heh, for much of today she could do what she liked. If friends were free, she sometimes met them for coffee but these days friendships were largely conducted online since few in ministry had energy on their days off. Facebook was her companion this morning and, scrolling down, one posting caught her eye. ‘What do you call a person who is happy on a Monday morning?’ It asked. ‘Retired’ came the reply. She laughed and then felt envious. The changes in pensions meant that retirement was a long way off. Scrolling on she was pleased to find news updates on her various friends’ children, husbands, ex-husbands, pets, culinary achievements and escapades: you name it, it was there for all to see. Whoever argued against hanging out your dirty laundry for all to see was clearly not a fan of Facebook! But by now she was distracted. She scrolled back.

‘What do you call a person who is happy on a Monday morning?’ ‘Minister’ she said, crossing her fingers and wishing it were really true.  Well it wasn’t exactly untrue – just that she could be happier – like when she was first ordained and ministry was so fulfilling. Sure, she got knackered in those heady days but it was a duvet hugging kind of knackered, not this ongoing weariness that a good night’s sleep did so little to shift these days. How she longed to be pastorally naïve once more; to believe that every parishioner in the Church of Scotland was actively pursuing a spiritual journey and that ministers spent 90% of their time facilitating people’s relationships with God. ‘But they do’ she heard herself say before the tsunami of recent church politics swept the tyranny of positivity away. True, she had never seen so much loving care and generosity prior to coming to Catterline Old but neither had she experienced so much bickering and back stabbing over everything from hymns, pews/no pews and flower rotas to Messy (why not Tidy?) Church.

By now Mary Jo wished she had never logged on to her iPad since that posting had claimed asylum and was taking up squatters’ rights in her head. The question wouldn’t go away: ‘What do you call a person who is happy on a Monday morning?’ She toyed with various answers: ‘A minister in a good charge’; ‘A minister in a church that has no need of A Place for Hope’; ‘A minister who has heard for themselves the good news they preached to the folks on Sunday.’ By now she was warming to her theme. ‘A minister who knows who they are and what they are there for’; ‘A minister whose calling is still a source of joy rather than a burden’.

Mary Jo paused. She had heard something along those lines recently at an ordination but didn’t have a pen to jot it down at the time. ‘There it is. Thank you Google!’ ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ For several minutes she marinated in that thought. There on the screen, in one pithy sentence were three things she knew from the inside: a sense of being called for a definite purpose; a deep and overwhelming nostalgia for the joy she once knew in ministry; and a recognition that ministry happens not in the ideal world but in the real world where folk hurt and hunger and bleed.

Aided and abetted by Google she pursued the line of enquiry and stumbled upon a new site that 121 had recently created to support folks in ministry. She almost skipped over the entry for pastoral supervision.  She was no fan of big brother (nor big sister for that matter) looking over her shoulder, checking up on her and, after a previous experience, was no great fan of ‘oversight’ either. But the strapline caught her attention: ‘Engaging Soul and Role in Context.’ She read on. ‘Pastoral supervision offers a gracious space for exploring the relationship between Soul (motivation) Role (whatever you are expected to do) and Context (the limiting and enabling factors in the place where you work) … a safe space in which people can look at how they are living out God’s vision for their lives and ask what they are doing with the gifts God has entrusted to them. Supervision offers care for the carer, ministry to the minister and ultimately ensures that God’s people are served fresh daily bread not yesterday’s stale leftovers’.

‘Calling, joy, need? Soul, role and context? What have I to lose?’ she asked herself but by then she had already pressed ‘send’ and her inquiry was on its way to someone who also cared about such things – her soon-to-be supervisor.

Rev Dr Michael Paterson, Director of Institute of Pastoral Supervision and Reflective Practice. IPSRP runs training in pastoral supervision in Glasgow and in Edinburgh (starting January 2018).