Two new guides for priests are nothing more than empty psychobbable, says Northern Echo columnist Peter Mullen.

THE VICAR'S GUIDE: Life and Ministry in the Parish, edited by David Ison (£14.99); THE CURATE'S GUIDE: From Calling to First Parish, edited by John Witcombe (£11.99). Both published by Church House Publishing

I MUST confess that, although I have been a priest in the Church of England for 35 years, I have so far got by without reference to "the Myers-Bigg Type Indicator (MTBIr)". According to The Vicar's Guide this is "a very useful tool for understanding personality". Even after 35 years, human personality is still a mystery to me, so perhaps I'll purchase my very own Myers-Bigg. But where from? The clerical outfitters - what we old timers call the lacenick and old arse shop - or the DIY store?

I have obviously been missing a lot over the decades. Under the heading "Being an agent of orderly change", I am invited to "refine the management of change". Anybody who uses the English language like that ought to be told to go and wash his mouth out. Besides, I've no intention of changing anything. This relentless fever for change in the church is what has emptied the pews - but not here. In our parish we use the Authorised Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer and the congregation grows week by week.

When I was ordained back in the olden days, I was sent to work for a Yorkshire vicar who knew all there was to know about being a priest. He told me from the start: "Read and prepare sermons in the morning. Visit the parishioners in the afternoon - and eat and drink everything they offer you. In the evenings, look in on the Girl Guides and the young wives and the youth club, if you've a strong stomach. Listen. Say nowt - except thank you. And pray like bloody hell". Half a lifetime on and having served in town, country, schools and now the City of London, this seems to me still to be pretty sound advice.

Certainly it's better advice than the instructions "... for the clear setting of goals and the sequential laying out of your vision". Laying out my vision? It makes it sound as if my vision has died. There's more guff here about "fulfilling the vision", "team dynamics" and "agreeing the process". I am also told to "be aware of your own reactive buttons". I'll thank you to keep your hands off my reactive buttons, Mister. There's a chapter called "Where To Start". When I'd read it, I echoed the response of the Irishman who was asked the way to Dublin Castle: "Well, I wouldn't start from here".

And if I had my time over and wanted to be a vicar again, I wouldn't start from these books. They are a hopeless, tedious mixture of psychobabble and clapped-out management-speak. I thought this was the sort of jargon that people going on "team building" courses with Tesco or Barclays Bank were asked to endure. That the church should adopt this drivelling nonsense verges on blasphemy. If these books are an indication of the depth of insight of the clerical advisers and experts who train our priests these days then - literally - God help us. If this is how they talk of earthly things, why should we take any notice if they try to speak to us of the heavenly?

The clanking mechanism of their verbiage goes nowhere. "Some people journal on a daily basis". Translated into English, that is "keep a diary". Then the expert admits that she goes to "buy a good cup of coffee and people-watches". You can be arrested for that sort of thing, madam. "People-watches" - how naff, how vulgar, how twee can you get? For sheer daftness it's hard to beat the suggestion that we "treat our bodies as life companions". We've no option.

Two more books combining unctuousness and self-parody with hideous condescension. Naffer than thou. All I can say after a mere 35 glorious years actually doing the job is that anyone who writes this kind of rubbish shouldn't be allowed nearer than a Sabbath day's journey to a young priest in training.

* Peter Mullen is rector of St Michael's, Cornhill, in the city of London and chaplain to the Stock Exchange.

Published: 31/05/2005