Trained for incompetence

Jul 18th, 2007 | By | Category: Ministry

What theologically demanding tasks have there been this week?

There has been the typing of the orders of service for the next six Sundays, I go away in a fortnight’s time and always prepare these. There has been the organization of the Sunday School rota.

At a more demanding level, there have been negotiations with a broadband internet company about the placing of one of their transmitters in the church tower; there has been the vexed question of the curtains for the new Rectory; and there has been the persistence of the fact that our current water supply comes over the wall in a black plastic hosepipe. The hosepipe was of interest to our solicitor, who had been advised that there were just “a few snags” to be dealt with.

Inspecting new gravel on part of the church grounds was one of the more encouraging moments, I felt that studying Fourth Century Christian doctrine helped me grasp the finer points of gravel and why potholes appear.

The church doesn’t really need a Rector, it needs a handyman/administrator, who would come at a fraction of the cost and would ensure everything ran much more smoothly. Apart from being a clergyman with an empty church, the only thing I’ve ever felt that I might have done with any degree of competence would have been a care assistant in an old people’s home.

I laughed when I read a passage from Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Gilead’,

A woman in my flock called just after breakfast and asked me to come to her house. She is elderly, recently a widow, all by herself, and she has just moved from her farm to a cottage in town. You can never know what troubles or fears such people have, and I went. It turned out that the problem was her kitchen sink. She told me, considerably amazed that a reversal so drastic could occur in a lawful universe, that hot water came from the cold faucet and cold water from the hot faucet. I suggested she might just decide to take C for hot and H for cold, but she said she liked things to work the way they were supposed to. So I went home and got my screwdriver and came back and switched the handles. She said she guessed that would do until she could get a real plumber. Oh, the clerical life!

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