Tom Rout is vicar of the Ipswich Waterfront Churches (St Helen, Holy Trinity and St Luke) and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College. He is married to Nicola and father of 3 young children.
“But you only work one day a week!” It’s a jibe church leaders know well. Usually it’s said in jest, because the joker knows better. But as it’s said so often, I guess it’s a perception many people have – that ministers only work on Sundays (besides the occasional Saturday wedding in the summer months!) and spend the rest of their time out on the golf course, or at home with their feet up.
If anything, it’s the opposite extreme – many ministers, vicars and priests struggle to take even a single day off a week. So where are they then? It’s true that quite a lot of a minister’s time is spent out of sight. That could be a sign they’re shirking their responsibilities, but usually it’s because they’re taking their primary role seriously – they are taking the necessary time aside to prepare properly for teaching and preaching. Skip this step, and you won’t say anything worth people listening to on a Sunday!
But there’s no point studying and preparing, if you’re not also engaging with people. This autumn we’ve tried doing that through evening courses (one on Parenting Children and a 3 week overview of Christian belief starting mid-November). I also go into schools to take assemblies, am available to meet people for private pastoral conversations and visit care homes and hospitals when needed.
In my work with the chaplaincy, we’re either in the office (available by appointment or if people drop in) or offering hospitality in our spacious meeting room – there’s free tea, coffee and toast for anyone who wants to drop in on a Tuesday morning. On Wednesdays, a team goes into Suffolk New College, identifiable in our purple hoodies, to talk to students about issues they’re dealing with. This month we’ll be involved at both the College and University with Remembrance Day events. Obviously, there’s a need to be digitally or virtually visible. The Waterfront Churches website is currently being overhauled and set for a relaunch before Christmas. The Chaplaincy advertises events and activities on social media platforms and via staff/student emails. You can always get in touch via