St Barnabas Church, Joydens Wood

Vicar’s Letter June 2018

I was talking to a lady the other day about “Wakes Week”. She had been born in the North of England, so she remembered it well. Originating as a religious celebration, often linking with the local church’s particular saint, the Wakes Week holiday first became a tradition in northern towns during the Industrial Revolution. It was a week when the cotton mills and factories were closed down for maintenance. From June through to September a different town was on holiday each week, though the workers were not paid. The tradition continued, even when holidays became paid.

Because the holiday from factory work was shared by the whole community who all worked together, they also used to take their holidays together, saving through the year for their joint week at the seaside. It was widely accepted that those who worked together also played together. I’m not sure how our work colleagues would take to that idea nowadays!

Thankfully regular holidays and breaks away are now an accepted part of our working lives. To quote the old advert for Mars bars, we need to “work, rest and play”. The Bible tells us that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” However, I don’t think we are very good using our time wisely, and striking that essential ‘work-life balance’, a term we started to use back in the 1970’s. I remember my husband leaving his office later and later, because no-one in his company wanted to be the one to make the first move to go home. The thinking was that working longer hours signified greater loyalty to the company, which would be rewarded when the annual bonuses were worked out. Then, with increasing use of emails, smartphones etc it has become very hard to stick to a working week of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Many people check work emails not only at weekends, but by the pool on their holiday.

We are often told that the Swedes seem to have a better cultural understanding of this concept of a work-life balance. In Sweden, offices generally close at 5pm and no one is expected to respond to work emails or texts outside working hours. Some companies have even begun experimenting with a six-hour working day. They simply expect their workers to fully focus on work while they are there, and do other stuff outside working hours. Is this a practice we need to consider? Focus on work only when we are at work? Only look at emails twice a day? I’d be interested to hear what you think.

God bless
Reverend Ren Harding
contact me at The Vicarage, 6 Tile Kiln Lane

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