Friday, 15 May 2009
Thursday, 14 May 2009
During the Clergy Conference I was determined to find out what was happening after my visit to the parish to meet the curate, only formally-instituted churchwarden, and a layperson who acts as 'unwarden'. The first words anyone spoke to me at the conference were those of the Archdeacon: 'I don't know anything'. It turned out that, although the curate felt she could work with me, the Archdeacon thought the Rural Dean was going to ask the laypeople what they thought, while the Rural Dean thought the Archdeacon was going to. It never occurred to the laypeople that they should volunteer an opinion. So nobody knew anything at all.
Yesterday I called the Archdeacons' secretary, who is the only person in the entire diocese who seems capable of pulling a finger out of wherever the fingers of preternaturally inactive yet chronically busy people normally are. Apparently the laypeople did like me, and want me to come for an interview. However it isn't clear whether this means on my own, or as part of a group, which naturally I would prefer to avoid as while I may be the best available candidate for Swanvale Halt in the diocese, I doubt I am the best in the entire Church of England. I refrained from asking why this wasn't ascertained in the first place. So we continue to wait.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Friday, 1 May 2009
The interview process was all desperately jolly, and in fact the parishioners were so keen to erode their church's reputation for being a bit stuffy that at times they ventured into the outskirts of hysteria. First I and my two competitors were shown, separately, round the church, churchyard (which is still open for burials), and vicarage (stripped bare apart from a few of the carpets which will also have to go since, I was informed, the former incumbent's dogs wee-ed on them). We were then whooshed around the parish to visit the primary school, dramatic castellated public school (like a miniature Wycombe Abbey) and technical college, before 'meeting the team' over tea and cake; I was introduced to a spectacular retired priest with a plum jacket and gravity-defying bouffant hair. Then we were billetted on various parishioners to relax for half an hour before 'trial by lasagne', otherwise known as supper with the PCC. The following morning was the interview itself, an hour of what amounted to concentrated spiritual analysis which I really don't want to repeat any time soon.
Frankly Aybourne, rather like Lamford, has had too much cash sloshing around in the past. The current vicarage is impressive enough, with soaring ceilings and rooms whose purpose is not really entirely clear. But it was preceded by this building, the Old Rectory, a structure so colossal it makes the Old Rectory in Lamford look like a chalet:
It now houses an entire junior school. The story goes that the then incumbent became Lord of the Manor unexpectedly after his elder brother died, and decided (suddenly having the money) to rebuild the church, in the process moving it to a more comfortable distance from his house. After all, Poor People might turn up, in theory.
The Church of Jesus Christ is always, inescapably, penetrated by the values of the world, but it seldom becomes so spectacular on a local level as it does (or once did) in Aybourne.