The other day I was looking at the positions open that were listed on the Episcopal News Service website. I decided to take a look at one particular parish profile to see if I could discover something about the parish that might be interesting if I were still in the business of looking for a job. I found a parish in a Southwestern Diocese that met that requirement.
From the November financial report of the parish, I estimated an annual budget of $313,500.00. They have a mortgage of $439,771.00 and endowments of $981,529.00. They had cash on hand of $84,891.00. I thought that this was a pretty stable financial picture and I found myself wishing that all my parishes had that kind of a cash balance when I was serving full time as a parish priest.
237 communicants were eligible for the survey. In addition to the Rector, there are 8 staff members, no clergy assistance, which tells me that the new Rector should have staff management skills. There is a Saturday evening service with contemporary music, an early and late Sunday service, the latter of which is a traditional choral Eucharist. The parish has two cursillo reunion groups and multiple bible study and prayer groups. So this is probably a "renewal" parish. On the surface it looks like a pretty good job; possibly well paying for one priest, but I found a distinct issue in the profile that needs addressing up front.
The profile repeatedly mentioned that they wanted the new Rector to attend all functions in the parish. At the same time they want a spiritual leader, a person active in the community, be energetic, focus on growth and encourage parish-wide outreach to the community. 69% of those completing the profile would welcome visits from the clergy and 40% reported that the parish provides adequate pastoral care. Naturally they want great sermons, a priest who ministers to all people and provides counsel to those with spiritual needs. They want their new Rector to love and care for the parish, grow the parish by being active in the community, to foster growth in the parish and "provide guidance for and be a lighthouse to the parish."
Per the norm, the parish profile tells us a lot about what they didn't like about the former Rector. Most parishes say that they want someone unlike the priest they had before. It looks like the former Rector may have been a bit of a recluse because they emphasized the point that the new Rector should attend all church functions and be active in the community.
Herein lies the problem. As written in the profile, this is an impossible job. I look at the parish calendar and I found 90 parish events during the month of November, including worship services. Is the new Rector to attend all of them? This is what the profile says. There were 20 liturgies during the month of November. Who is supposed to plan all of them and do them well? The new Rector of course. In addition to all that, the new Rector is supposed to be active in the community, foster evangelism and church growth, and preach great sermons. Where is the new Rector going to find the time to do all of this? This profile is a trap and the job is impossible if you believe the profile.
Any Rector, with or without a family, is going to have a very tricky time management problem. How do you take time off, be involved with family and friends, and do everything the profile expects you to do? The profile reads like this parish has a boundary problem and wants to consume the new Rector into a whirlpool in which the priest is swallowed up and sucked dry.
The job probably pays pretty well and the parish probably has solid lay leadership. It is an interview that I would probably accept if I were looking for a job. But I would be prepared to ask pertinent questions that speak to the issues of boundaries and job expectations. When it comes to discussing a contract, I would insist on clear and definite expectations and provisions for time off from the job. I would ask them to prioritize their expectations. I would ask them how they would expect me to attend 90 parish functions, plan and preach excellent sermons, provide pastoral care, visit the sick and shut-in, make parish calls and plan and develop education programs, foster evangelism and outreach to the community. If I were to be called as Rector, I might say no and tell them why. The parish wants a priest who will allow him or herself to be drawn into a vice and squeezed to death. Anyone who takes this job without setting solid boundaries is bound to burn out and have other personal relationship issues. Buyer beware.