I had a super induction service at Swanvale Halt on Monday evening, even though I hadn't twigged that I was supposed to give the dismissal at the end and nobody had pointed it out: the Bishop had to call me to the front. So St Rita of Cascia, blessed patron saint of liturgical cock-ups, is right there with me from the start. I was whirled around from one smiling person to another at the bun-fight afterwards, fuelled by nothing but champagne and mania, to discover in the dying moments that the ex-Lady's dog had escaped from the upstairs bathroom where he'd been confined, scaled the roof, jumped the gate and was wandering around the road outside greeting the cars with a friendly bark.
On my first day I was only made incandescent with rage the once, largely because slightly too many things were being framed to me in the terms 'this is what we do' rather than 'this is what we've done till now, do you mind carrying on?' which would have got my back up rather less. To a degree this is mutual insecurity: I'm especially sensitive to being told what to do because I'm unsure of my ground, while some people are unsure of me and so sensitive in the other direction.
I went to see my spiritual director whose house I'd been staying in before the move. 'Everyone said you were very untidy,' he informed me, 'I think we need to work on this. Of course in the old days the answer would have been to get a tidy wife, but that's rather frowned on these days'.
He told me two things I found interesting (three if you count his being denounced by the Bishop of Rochester as 'a very dangerous man', which I suggested should go on the cover of his forthcoming book). There was the story of the former vicar of St George's Bickley who covered all the windows of the church in black velvet so it was pitch-dark inside and replaced all the altar furniture with silver stuff. It must have looked like something run by the Church of Satan. In a similar vein, S.D. recently conducted a house-blessing using the full-works Rituale Romanum form with separate exorcisms of salt and water before they are co-mingled and then blessed again to make the holy water for the blessing itself. The lady houseowner was very pleased. 'I do so love the Book of Common Prayer', she said. Curiously she opened all the cupboards in the house to be blessed but not the fridge. We concluded that it must now be positively throbbing with demons.
This afternoon at my new Deanery Chapter I heard another good line. One of the parishes is facing the decision not to use one of its two churches, naturally a very controversial question among the non-churchgoers of the village concerned. 'But that's the church they don't go to,' said the priest in charge of one of the neighbouring parishes, 'It just wouldn't be the same not going to a completely different church'.