As an English Honours student back in the glorious sixties, I was once kicked out of a lecture. It was because I sat in the front row ostentatiously reading a novel. This was rude and provocative, the lectures were not compulsory and so I needn’t have bothered to be there at all. The lecturer, understandably and quite rightly took offence and asked me to leave the hall, which I did. Sad to say, though, I basked in the notoriety of being the only student ever kicked out of a lecture during my university years.


Hoist by own petard

I have now, at last, been hoist by my own petard. As I delivered a long-laboured-over sermon recently, I observed from my pulpit eyrie someone sitting in the front pew phone-texting. I consoled myself by assuming her to be texting me to say: “Wonderful sermon, wonderful sermon, wonderful sermon!” Oddly my phone did not record the message.


(Superfluous but interesting aside: A petard was a small bomb used in siege warfare to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. The proverbial phrase, as we use it, originates in Hamlet and means: to be harmed by your own plan to harm someone else. The word petard itself comes from the French word for ‘to break wind’.)


Change in the Parish

This year is one of change in the parish. Most of it interesting and promising change. For a start we have a new Parish Secretary. I miss Heather Camm very much indeed, as do many of us, not least because she was so pastorally minded, compassionate, kind and loving, in the very best of Christian ways. However in Diana we have a very, very sound replacement who not insignificantly happens to be my wife.


In the best of marriages it is difference not sameness, complementarity rather than likeness that makes for wholeness. So too with a work colleague. Diana thinks and plans more visually than verbally, is highly organised, systematic and thorough. My gifts are almost totally other and otherwise. Together, therefore, we are more far widely effective than I have ever been on my own. Most satisfying and good for the parish.


A team of seven

Also interesting is a move towards greater variety and collegiality in our clerical team. We are no longer a mere two priests, but seven, though two of the seven are still on the way to priesthood rather than quite there.


At the Parish helm there remains myself, the only full-time priest. As helmsman as unlike Captain Schettino of Concordia notoriety as it is possible to get, I trust.


The rest of the team are either honorary (The Reverend Doctors Helen Malcolm and Chris Shields), or part time (Deacon Grace Sharon, Missioner Jon Hanley, Hospital and Nursing Home Chaplains, the Reverends Norm Hart and Patti Matthews).


If we succeed in sparking each other into creativity, as we should, then this year could well be an interesting one. I hope we have the courage to try new initiatives, even if they fail. Certainly we intend widening our focus to be more inclusive of the community and of younger families than heretofore. Our work with the elderly has been and continues to be extensive, but we do need a wider focus.


Whining and bleating

How I dislike whining, whingeing, bleating and complaining! If so, why, in that sentence, have I just whined, whinged, bleated and complained about it? Shut up Andrew! Be quiet. Practise what you preach. Alright, I will.


Lent or Ramadan

In the Rectory we have had a study group on Islam for about twelve weeks now. Nineteen of us have engaged in hearty debate, discussion and discovery. Now more knowledgeable of that Faith, we are able to see just how much there is in Islam to be admired and that is held in common with us. It is usually ignorance that breeds intolerance, hatred and fear. While certainly no apologists for Islam, all of us have discovered that we can respect that faith at its best, and celebrate much that we both hold dear.


The Ramadan Fast is made much of in Islam. So too is the Lenten Fast for serious Christians. All readers of this article who have made it thus far without tossing it aside are either serious Christians or close to being so. Well done! Prove it though by diligently observing Lent rather than slipping into it with a yawn and no action. Wholeheartedness is both a life and faith invigorating characteristic of sensible human beings and believers. There follow a few suggestions for a bracing and invigorating Lent.


         1)     Begin properly with the Imposition of Ash at an Ash Wednesday Eucharist. (8.00am, 10.00am, 6.30pm on the 22nd of February)


         2)     Attend a week day Eucharist or two, stay on for a chat over breakfast on Thursdays and Fridays.


         3)     Give up something that is good and that you will really, really miss. The aim is to sharpen your appreciation of what is good . Bad habits are not to be given up merely for Lent, but permanently!


         4)      Get up fifteen minutes earlier than usual each day to do a bit of real praying. I hope this year to print again in the weekly pew sheet my little prayer scheme for each week of Lent.


         5)     Try tithing your income if you don't already do so to discover how exhilarating it is to be so markedly different from the money-mad world at large.


         6)     Ask your Clergy for a good Lenten Book to read, or ransack the local or parish library.


         7)     Seriously determine to make a friend of an enemy, or repair a fraught relationship.


         8)     Go to church on Sundays fifteen minutes early to prepare yourself more adequately for the Sacrament.


         9)     Take a gentle jog or walk each day and say your prayers as you do so.


10) Attend a parish study or prayer group.


To the Rectory born.

You might have gathered by now that I love being a parish priest. Why? Who knows? Genetically born to it, and environmentally nurtured for it certainly. When Philip Toynbee was dying of cancer he asked a priest who was visiting him how he came to be ordained, Toynbee said: “He told me that he had tried several things first - engineering and psychiatric nursing among them - but this was the first pool he had stepped into in which he couldn’t feel the bottom......” Not a bad answer.