Nell Goddard

musings of a clergy child

15 Jul

An Open Letter to the new clergy child

Dear Friend,

It's a strange time in your life right now.  A season of change, a new house, a new church, maybe a new school, and a whole host of new emotions. I know that there are so many different thoughts and feelings running through your head and your heart as you read this. I know that nothing feels quite right, and it all seems a bit unsettled. I know that you're an overwhelming mix of proud, and excited, and just a little bit scared. I know that you might be feeling quite angry and resentful because you never really wanted this change, and it might sometimes feel like God has forgotten you in His calling of your parents.

I know that it's strange to have your dad - or your mum - up the front leading the service, preaching, giving out communion, instead of sitting with you in the pews like he - or she - always has before now. I know that your dad's new 'dog collar' is a strange addition to his outfit that you're still not quite used to. I know that you still secretly kind of want to laugh at the fact that your dad is wearing a 'dog collar', because it does, quite frankly, sound ridiculous.

I know that you're unsure of what to expect from the people in your new church, the ones who talk to you like they already know everything about you, who smile at you and hug you and are overwhelmingly lovely to you all of the time. I know that it feels strange to be the centre of attention, to be asked questions and to not know which answer to give - the honest one, or the one that they expect to hear. I know that you're bursting with pride to see how loved your dad is by all those around him, but I also know that this comes with a strange twinge of jealousy, with an anxiety that, maybe, you're going to lose him to them.

I know that, actually, your new church might not be quite as friendly as that. I know that there might not be many other people your own age, and that you're worried about making friends and starting over in a brand new place. I know that you notice the moments of tension and of stress at home more than anyone ever thinks that you do, that you overhear conversations that you know you shouldn't. I know that you're far too good at keeping secrets already, and you've not been around all that long yet. I know that you have so many mixed emotions about moving house and church and maybe even school, and that sometimes it feels like God stole your parents, your home and all that you had previously known and loved.

I know that your new house feels unnaturally large, and it seems odd to have so many people in and out of it all the time. I know that it's weird to have the doorbell or the phone always ringing, to never know what to say to the strangers who come before the previous meeting has finished. I know that you are unsure how many of your childhood antics will be exposed in this week's sermon illustration. I know that, sometimes, you feel like you don't really know anything at all anymore.


I'm not going to promise you that life as a clergy child will be easy. There will be days when you want to curl up in a ball and cry, wishing that everyone would go away and leave your family in peace. There will be moments when you want to yell at people, to use your words as weapons rather than as gifts, and seconds when you will bite your tongue moments before you say something deeply hurtful. There will be times when people will ask questions they have no right to know the answers to, and you will want to ask equally obtuse questions in return, just to show them how it feels. There will be Sundays when you will be on 3 different rotas and you won't feel like there's enough of you to go round. There will be vicarage lunches where you will sit quietly, resenting the small talk you must make with those around you. There will be seasons when you will question whether God really knew what He was doing when He called your parents and your family to ordination, to this church, to this crazy and unpredictable life.


But what I can promise you is that this life, this crazy and unpredictable life, it will inspire you. It will grow you and change you and teach you things you never thought it possible to learn. It will show you first-hand the wonders of how God changes lives. It will give you stories to tell at dinner parties for years to come. It will never cease to amaze you. You are going to see lives changed beyond recognition. You are going to discover just how much love you have to give. You are going to learn how to forgive, and how to hope, and how to have grace even when there isn't an ounce of graciousness left within you.

You will meet people who drive you crazy, and people who show you love in ways you never expected. People who make you feel things you never thought it was possible to feel. People who turn you inside out and upside down and who you will care for so deeply you can't even begin to express it. You will see humility and generosity daily, and you will be astounded by the magnitude of people's ability to deal with all that life throws at them. You will befriend those to whom you would never usually even think of speaking. You will share the most precious moments of your life - Christmas, Easter, Birthdays - with people who will change your perspective on the world forever. You will learn things that will stay with you for the rest of your life. You will cry through funerals of people with whom you have shared more Christmases than your own grandparents. You will laugh at baptisms of children whose parents' love you saw blossom over years, and whose wedding you remember as if it were yesterday. You will garner random life skills such as cooking lunch for 15 at 2 hours' notice, keeping a straight face when accepting the most random of gifts, and the ability to maintain a 10 minute conversation about the liturgical significance of ice cream.

Most importantly, though, you will see something of God every single day. You will find Him in the people that you meet, the conversations that you have, the cakes that you bake, the cards that you receive, the questions that you answer, the small talk that you make, and the silence that you sit through. You will find Him in the quietest, the most unlikely of places. You will find Him even in the questions, in the doubt, in the anger and in the turmoil. The uncertainty and the distrust. The pain and the tears. When you reach the end of yourself - which you will, because a vicarage is not an easy place to be - you will find Him there, with open arms and kind eyes, gentle words and a peaceful presence.

My friend, I am not promising you an easy ride, or all the answers to those questions you're too scared to ask. I am not promising that those emotions you cannot name but currently threaten to overwhelm you will be gone come morning. But what I can promise you, what I am promising you, is that He will always be enough. When you are scared, remind yourself of His perfect love for you. When you are doubting, listen for that quiet voice of truth, whispering through the noise of the questions. When you are lonely, let Him enfold you in His arms. When you don't know what to do, remember that He has great plans for you. When you feel forgotten or overlooked, discover again the truth of His acceptance of you.

Do not be afraid, my friend. You are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, and you have the King of the Universe as your travel companion. It's going to be okay.

I'm praying for you.


Nell x

Nell Goddard

Hi, I’m Alianore. I used to be known as 'Nell Goddard', but then I got married and changed my name. I’m an author, blogger, and speaker. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend. I tweet as @alianoree and you can find more of my writings in my first book, 'Musings of a Clergy Child'.