Hello and welcome to my blog. This week sees the last of the old interviews for, “a day in the life of..” This “day” was first published in 2010, and when we met, Rev Gail had to conquer her nerves before she could share her passion for her vocation.
Rev Gail Souppouris, 57, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, worked in social care for twenty years before being ordained. She lives with her husband Kyri and has four children, one grandson, five chickens and two semi-feral cats, Amber and Nectar.
At the beginning of the day I pray. If I don’t pray, perhaps because I’m rushing, I feel its lack by about 10.30!
I need to be up and breakfasted in order to open the church by half past eight. Opening the church every single day and making sure that it looks welcoming to everyone, whether they have a faith or not, is one of the most important bits of our mission.
A lot of people think of churches as somewhere that you have to go and do something, but to me, one of the joys of this church is that it’s a place for people to come and simply to be. Certainly in the summer, people will often use the bench at the back garden. If it looks as if they’d like me to come down and sit beside them, I will. You can usually gauge that by saying, “Hi. Morning. How are you?” If you’ve got the dog collar on it sort of gives an opening.
It’s very interesting when you’re on holiday. If somebody discovers that you’re a Reverend, suddenly you’ll find yourself in the corner of rooms being asked to listen to peoples’ problems. It could be that they’ve got a problem with God and they want to have a really good rail and sometimes its because they’ve got something really deep and difficult and you’re an anonymous person that they know is going to listen. The same thing happens with the bench outside the church.
My diary is divided into three bits for morning, afternoon and evening, and its really easy to say, “That’s a blank, I can fit an appointment in there,” but its important to keeps gaps. What you’ve got in your diary is a single thing but you need all that time around it. A school assembly, which might take 20 minutes, could have taken up to 4 hours to get organised. I’ll need an hour to start thinking about what I’m going to do, and then at least an hour to do the power point and sort out the songs and then just before I go, I need at least half an hour to get ready because I usually take practical things.
There’s also a matter of engaging. At St Nick’s they’ll all be from church families so you give a completely different assembly than you do in Buckingham School, where an awful of them probably wouldn’t know how to say the Lord’s Prayer. So what do you say to youngsters that brings out what I believe, but equally, touches them? So you’re going for morals, if you like, but I always try and include something from the Bible so they’ll get a little bit of information about what Christianity is about without thrusting it upon them. For a funeral, I’ll need to do the visit, which will take one to two hours; I then need thinking and praying time; I then need to write the Address and sort out all the practicalities with the Funeral Directors. I might need to do a second visit, if there are any particular issues, and then you drive to the crematorium or the church and very often you’ll end up going to the wake as well.
Looking at my diary for the coming week, I’m going to Shoreham Airport to conduct a small ceremony to scatter ashes of somebody whose funeral I didn’t take. I’ve had to get to know the Chief Mourner and understand who the person was in order to put quite a short service together. But that will be good because I’m the Chaplin of Shoreham Airport. Then, I’ve got a wedding on Saturday and a big gig in the church in the evening. My husband and I are doing the refreshments for that because I don’t think anybody else can do it, and then on Sunday we’re blessing shoeboxes to go to Romania, which is brilliant. On Monday, we’ve got a meeting to try and clear the church porch. It’s amazing how much stuff comes through the vicarage letterbox so we’re going to try and organise the notice board, and in the evening we’ve got a Parochial Church Council meeting. Later in the week, we’ve got a Churches Together meeting which we’re holding here so I need to make sure that we’ve got refreshments organised and obviously I’m there for the meeting as well.
I love worship on a Sunday morning. We have a Healing Service once a month and that can be remarkable, a time just to minister to peoples’ souls. There are sorrows but there are so many gifts. I love that and Bible studies and Lent Groups and all the things that our church family do, but if you want to know what I am passionate about, it is about reaching out to people who think Christianity is rubbish. When I speak to somebody who says, “I don’t come to church. I’ve got a faith but I can’t see any point in coming to church,” my eyes gleam. I don’t want to say to them, “You’ve got to come to church; you’ve got to believe in this or that or the other creed,” I’ve got to say to them, “Isn’t there a space inside of you where you need something spiritual? Isn’t there space inside of you that aches for something that is beyond you? Where are you finding that? Are you finding that in New Age mysticism? I love science fiction myself, if you looked in my DVD collection, I love science fantasy, but we all need, deep within us, an understanding of something that is beyond us. When I do a funeral or a baptism visit or when I prepare couples for a wedding, I’d like to be able to reach out even if they only say, “Well, I really liked that Vicar because she listened to me.” So when they have a trouble, maybe their teenage children are being an absolute pain in the backside, maybe they lose a baby, maybe they lose a parent or a partner, if they can then identify with that person who actually listened and seemed to feel that there was something important that God could offer, they might say, “I’ll go and speak to them now because I’m in trouble.”
My days finish at very different times because very often I have evening meetings. If it’s all finished by 9 then that’ll be the time to slump on the sofa with a cup of tea and watch something mindless on the television. If the meetings don’t finish ’til 10 – 10.30 then it might just be something quick and without caffeine before going upstairs. I prefer a shower. My husband prefers a bath, so we negotiate each night. Before I settle down in bed with my book, I use whatever Bible notes I’m currently following just to read a short passage of Scripture and think a little on it. It only take about 3 – 5 minutes, but it rounds the day off perfectly. I usually switch off the light somewhere around midnight. Rev Gail is still at the church of the Good Shepherd and was one of the team that produced last years’ memorable Passion for Shoreham. Next week, will see the start of a new series of “a day in the life of..” The first will be a day in the life of a commercial airline pilot who, amongst many surprising insights, gives his own view of what could have happened to Malaysian flight MH370. Well, time to go. Thanks for dropping by and see you next week.