Posting here today
Next Thursday I have to conduct a funeral for one of our folk, an older woman who died after a life of struggle but who had the most stunning smile and a faith that held out to the end despite agonising pain. Among her requests are for everyone to wear something red (her favourite colour) which has presented me with some interesting dilemmas. I also love red and have in my wardrobe a red suit for high days and holy days - but I sensed it would not go down well if I wore it to conduct the funeral. Sounding out a couple of folk who will tell me straight they said, in their inimitable fashion, 'no mi duck that woon't be roit.' The other red clothes I possess include a fleece, a couple of teeshirts, various tops, some socks and gloves - none of which would work with the expected black suit and clerical shirt. I discounted my santa hats, my red Christmas hair ornaments and even the red beads which just wouldn't work with a clerical shirt, concluding I'd have to look for a cheap brooch somewhere or other.
I had mentioned to one of people I'd sounded out that what I really could do with was a red stole (or a 'vicar scarf' as I called it). Tonight she came to 'thing in a pub' bearing a plastic carrier bag which she presented me with. Inside was a very long, plain red scarf with incredibly long tassels - a perfect stole substitute, which she had spotted marked down to £1 in Primark. She also offered me a tiny, red, heart-shaped pin badge (British Heart Foundation) whilst someone else said she had a brooch I could borrow. In the end, whilst the men looked on in bewilderment, we decided that the scarf was 'the very indentical' and will be perfectly appropriate for a minister conducting a funeral.
For this moment I find myself thinking, who could wish for a more wonderful little flock?
So, last night we began our Lent studies which had the official title 'giving up' but is better summed up in the remark made by Rose* an absolutely wonderful 70-something eccentric Anglican of 'liberty and licence.' The study centred on a couple of clips from Chocolat the first of which showed most of the main characters in their unliberated state at the start of the story - the widow still trapped by the death of her husband 40 years earlier, a victim of domestic violence trapped in a loveless marriage, the Comte engaged in a legalistic Lenten fast and so on. As part of the discussions I invited those who were old enough (most of the group!) to recall aspects of life at the time the film was set (1959) mentioning that this was pre-Vatican II, rock and roll was just taking off and the 'swinging sxities' were just around the corner. It was certainly enlightening and seemed to centre on issues around the sexual liberation for which that peiroid is remembered. I can just imagine the conversation in the post office queue:
'So, you went to the Lent meeting last night. Any good?'
'Well it was a bit racy!'
'Yes, all we did was talk about sex.'
Not true of course - we also looked at the call of Jesus on his fishermen disciples and the encounter with the rich young man. We talked about those who are called to give up material wealth and those who are called to employ their wealth to support them (eg those I refer to as 'Luke's wealthy women'). We talked about the value of abstinence for a season or for a lifetime and some of the things we now see as 'wrong headed' we were told in years gone by, such as the couple who recalled being told that if God called them they must be willing to give each other up to obey. And we talked of freedom and responsibility, of church being counter-cultural yet accessible.
Seeming as we were talking about liberty and licence, the Youth Worker employed by one of the churches was telling 11-14 year olds that social networking websites are sinful... alas legalism and misguided protectionism still dog the church.
A good evening was enjoyed by those who took part and hopefully we all went home with things to ponder.
* Not her real name
Cadbury's Dairy Milk is to go Fairtrade. Oh happy day! Now I can be the Baptist minister of Dibley with an even clearer conscience. Hurray! Easter will be even sweeter this year.
Readers of a sensitive or nervous disposition may need to look away now! Our derelict and nearly sold - it's just waiting for completion - building is not merely home to both birds and bats but they (at least the birds, the bats are 'not proven') have the audacity to breed there. I mean, breeding in a church - shocking! As a result of this, the buyer has to evict them - and provide temporary housing for the bats (how sweet) before the breeding season gets underway if he is to achieve the required timeframe for housing association housing on the site (are you keeping up?!). What this means is:
- taking tiles off the roof so that the bats think 'this is not a nice place to bring up a family' and leave in disgust
- building a temporary bat house - which needs official planning consent (!)
- covering up the crevices and eaves where the birds nest
There seems a bit of a tension between bird and bat preferences here - and I'm a little confused as to why the bats can't leave via one of the numerous broken windows or why the birds won't suddenly decide to nest inside the building having flown in and sussed it out. Failure to do this now means a delay of about six months until all the baby birdies have grown up and flown and any baby bats have learned that this is not a nice place to hang out anymore before the builder can put up much needed low cost housing. As Terry Wogan would say 'is it me?'
So, scaffolders and green netting due to arrive on site in the next day or so...