St James the Least
My Dear Nephew Darren,
The Absurdity of a Vicar Ever Retiring!
Beware of being invited by Bishops to drop round for a chat. My first mistake was to answer the phone when he rang; what are answerphones for? To avoid having to talk to anyone – ever! My second mistake was not to be able to think of a meeting I had to attend, preferably on another planet, on the day he suggested.
I therefore found myself in his study this morning, waiting for the point of the meeting while we negotiated the obligatory five minutes discussing the weather and his summer holiday in France. I made it quite clear that I had been far too busy to swan off to foreign parts – although I suspect the implication of what I said passed him by.
We then got to the point. He was toying with the thought of my retirement and linking us with the adjoining parish of St Agatha’s. I patiently explained, using simple words and speaking slowly for his benefit, that at 85 and with 40 years at St James the Least of All behind me, I was just getting into my stride and that the vicar of St Agatha’s, a stripling at 63, had nowhere near enough experience to organise the hymn list, let alone two parishes. This, too, seemed to drift somewhere above his head.
He had clearly done his homework. There were already plans for my Queen Anne rectory to be sold and my five acres of garden be turned into a housing estate. This news would be received by our parishioners with as much equanimity as if they were told that Buckingham Palace was to be converted into a sports centre!
The matter, I was told, was confidential, which meant that I only relayed the news to one parishioner at a time. By the end of the day everyone in the village knew, and a counter attack was being planned. Inevitably, the most outraged were those who never attend church. People do so love having a church not to go to. Congregations have soared, gardeners are being brought in to tidy the rectory grounds, and the church council is now well attended. The latter is a mixed blessing, as I always think that the time to get worried is when people start to turn up to meetings.
It may surprise our Bishop, but the threat of a merger has been the greatest impetus to mission outreach we’ve had in years. Retirement indeed! I’m sure Zadok was never asked about his pension plans.
Your loving uncle, Eustace