A couple of years ago I mentioned here my sense of triumph at having compiled a little 'pastoral directory' which would make my parish visiting so very much easier. It was a good idea, but keeping up with the information was a different matter and that I have failed to do. So I'm having another go.
One of the things I've tried to do in the past is to keep an eye on properties around the parish which change hands and, when the estate agent's sign comes down, to knock on the door and say hello to whoever happens to be in. I'm not sure how effective it is as an evangelical tactic (one couple I'd visited once came to the church to have their baby christened - not much of a result from all that time) but it does me good to have to speak to people who wouldn't normally come to church and it keeps me in touch a bit with what's happening in the community and the sort of people who are moving in.
So one of my jobs this week has been to re-start my lists from scratch and tour around the village looking for such properties. Firstly I notice that one of the big local estate agents must have been bought out because there is a new sign I keep seeing. But the bigger surprise is that there aren't many at all. There's one street in particular which I can usually rely on to be decorated with a rich variety of SOLD and LET signs, and yet on this sweep I found only one. The general paucity suggests that the housing market in this area is unusually sluggish and I wonder whether that portends anything more widely about the economy.
All clergy regard visiting as an important part of our duties, and all of us castigate ourselves for not doing more of it. The trouble is that the modern world makes it increasingly difficult as hardly anyone is at home any more and when they are the last thing they want is the priest knocking on the door. There's one elderly lady I've tried to visit at least four times and on each occasion I've popped 'Sorry you were out' notes through the letterbox. 'Thank you for your note', she says when we speak at church. Even hospital visiting is affected as people spend less and less time there. A member of our congregation had a heart attack a few days ago, was admitted to hospital on Friday afternoon and was back home again on Monday having had a minor operation in between. Once upon a time she'd have been laid up for a fortnight with that, but there was little sense me racing over to Frimley and interrupting her treatment when she was going to be home in a couple of days anyway.