In this next excerpt from God’s Upgrades … My Adventures my IKEA days were over as I was rescued by the offer of a three month locum in Jersey. Now read on …
We arrived on November 5th, and our first Christmas came upon us very quickly. It was also our silver wedding anniversary on Christmas eve, and although some good friends came over for Christmas we felt very isolated from our friends and family. So we decided instead to have open house. We made loads of cakes, bought plenty of cheap fizz (sadly not the real stuff) and invited everyone from both churches to drop in during the day. This was an instant and immediate success. Not only did it bring people from the two churches together, but it also set the tone for our ministry. We have always tried to use our homes for hospitality. I reserve the right of clergy to use their homes as safe sanctuaries into which the life of the parish is never allowed to intrude, but that has not been our way. We found people coming into the vicarage for the first time ever, and taking the opportunity to have a good nose around. ‘We’d always wondered what it was like inside!’ we were told by many visitors.
The chance to celebrate a major family milestone with us meant that people quickly and easily took us to their hearts. The welcome we received was instant and heartfelt, and showed itself in a variety of practical ways. One parishioner turned up one day with his estate car absolutely brimming with logs for our open fire. Another family, on hearing me remark that my study was lovely but a bit dingy, gave me their account card for the local ironmongers and told me I could spend ‘say around £200 or so’ on some new lighting. One farmer from St Lawrence kept us supplied with fresh veg, along with the occasional joint of some recently slaughtered animal. He used to bring milk for the after-service coffee: it was still warm from the cow, and was about half and half milk and thick cream.
There was a downside, though, to being a rural Rector: I had to bless things. More specifically I had to bless animals. A few times a year, on some obscure festivals which as a townie I had never really encountered before, the St Lawrence congregation would decamp to the Churchwarden’s farm, and I had to say prayers over some huge piece of livestock or other. Now don’t get me wrong: I’ve got nothing against animals. Some of my best meals have contained them. But I much prefer to encounter them well done with pepper sauce than to get into a field with them and pray (although on the odd occasions in the past I had found myself in field of animals I certainly had prayed!) I tried telling Charles that my powers of blessing were so well developed that they could travel enough distance that I could do it from here, but he would have none of it. Blessing was a hands-on business apparently. When I finally left the parish Charles, in his farewell speech, described me as all in all pretty good, but a bit of a wimp with the animals, an epithet of which I was in no way ashamed.