Eddie Boon, 46, is a minister in the United Reformed Church. He was ordained in 1990 and now serves in Hythe, Hampshire.
How did you get into this line of work and what qualifications does a vicar need?
I was in my late teens when I felt that God might be calling me to full time service in the church. Required qualifications vary from church to church and each denomination has its own training courses. Concurrent with my church training course I studied for a BA (Hons) in Theology at the University of Manchester (but degree standard is not compulsory). The training also included a year’s internship in a church. Most candidates for ministry in the URC these days usually train with studies and church placements integrated together.
Do you think being a vicar could be a viable career choice rather than a religious calling?
There is quite a high drop-out rate from ministry due to stress and other reasons including people realising that it is not, in fact, for them. Additionally the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by church leaders has made the church think greatly about those who serve it. There was a day when the children of rich families went in to the army, the law or the church, but today I believe, that if someone trains for the ministry without a real sense of calling in their heart, there will be trouble ahead.
What perks come with the job?
Lots of tea, coffee and cakes in people’s homes! Flexible hours enable me to attend school activities etc. Working collaboratively with other leaders and a sense that you are involved in something of long lasting value. Being able to make a real difference in peoples’ lives and be with them at significant moments in their lives. If you are looking for financial perks and bonuses however – look somewhere else!
Can you tell me about your sabbaticals?
Every ten years I am entitled to have a three month sabbatical where I can step out of pastoral charge and do some different things. In 2000 I researched the question ‘Is football a religion?’ and in 2010 amongst other things I have been doing some work in the area of learning disabilities and I have also been able to go on a charity field trip with my family.
You recently took your family to Kosovo; why and what was it like?
We went for two weeks with the charity Smile International to find out more about the country, to work with some of the charity’s projects and to hook up with the local church. It was a wonderful trip to a beautiful country that suffered terribly in 1999 with ethnic cleansing and the breakdown of the former Yugoslavia. The people we met constantly live with the pain of the loss of loved ones and many remain undiscovered. The country is poor by western standards but is continuing to establish itself (under UN protection) since its declaration of independence in 2008. We had a busy time working with families, widows, children and lots more and it was really good to share this experience as a family.
What are your career ambitions / ideal job?
Just to continue to develop my ministry and focus on new creative ways of being a minister. I like leading the process of management change and I have become experienced in administration. I’m open to a phase of ministry outside the local church, possibly in the area of training, administration or social care.
What is your view on women priests?
Actually, I don’t believe in priests at all, except in the sense of the ‘priesthood of all believers’. I believe both men and women should have equal opportunities to serve in the church as paid leaders.
What is your view on vuvuzelas?
I quite like them, although I made the mistake of buying two for my sons and they are unbearable at close range! It is a bit of a shame that you can’t hear the distinctive singing of individual nations but overall 2010 will be remembered for it and that’s not a bad thing. The word has part meaning of ‘making noise’ and the worship in our church involves different instruments and quite a bit of noise (although no horn). The blasts of similar horns led to the fall of Jericho (in the book of Joshua in the Bible) and also Psalm 98:6 says “with trumpets and the blast of the horn, shout for joy before the LORD, the King.”
Who will win the World Cup?
Argentina – I am sorry to say.
Do you think we could help the England team by praying?
Not really, and it would not be good theology to connect God’s potential activity to the fortunes of the England team (in plain speak ‘it’ll end in tears’) – I have also given up praying for good weather for our family camping trips for the same reason, but I have seen God answer prayer in many other wonderful ways.
What is your favourite book?
Trick question; should I say the Bible? Or maybe Lord of the Rings, but I have also recently been gripped by the Stieg Larsson trilogy.
What do you do to relax?
I like to swim, watch films, go to football matches (Everton or AFC Bournemouth) or have days out with my family.
Has Christian Ministry changed with modern technology?
Undoubtedly yes, but just like any other career, technology does not save me time but just allows me to do more in more time. Use of IT in worship, video clips, projection of words, web sites, viral publicity via Facebook and other social sites, production of posters, room bookings at the church and blogging (as we did in Kosova) are amongst the benefits. Email, of course, helps people communicate and prepare collaborative for projects. It has its dangers with pastoral problems; copying unnecessary people in and the pressure upon the recipient do deal with everything immediately, whatever the importance. I have learnt that urgent does not always equal important. I also avoid the dangerous temptation to start the day with emails and allowing these to direct my day. As I gear up for a Sunday, I do not look at emails from Friday evening through Saturday, so that I can remain focused and not get distracted. Sometimes I also need to resist the temptation of spending hours on a complicated and flashy powerpoint presentation that can hinder the message rather than help it. Technology can be a great servant to my work but it takes discipline to prevent it becoming the master – sometimes in our chaotic world we need to remember that less can be more.
Do you think you work more/less than someone else at your career stage? Some people might think you only do a one-day week.
I serve a local church which is open all week long during the day and evening and so this involves long hours for me. Meeting members of the public, pastoral visiting, chairing meetings, leading our community projects, working with other churches and agencies, training, prayer and preparation for Sunday and mid-week services are just a few of the things I am involved in. There is never a dull moment and a lot of variety to the work I do. I am also available day or night in emergency situations and it has been a privilege to sit with people in the night as they wait for the passing of their loved ones. In the United Reformed Church there is no sense of career promotion; rather through life, priorities change as I move into ministry in new places or situations.
Anything to add?
I have been working as a minister for twenty years and despite the challenges and stresses I have no regrets as a move into the second half of my life’s work (God willing).