The Monty Python School of Ministry

Dec 16th, 2007 | By | Category: Ministry
During college days, four theological students performed a clergy version of the “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch from Monty Python. There was a generation of clergy who seemed under constant compulsion to tell everyone how busy they were, and how they never took time off. In fact, for people who purported never to have a spare moment, some had extraordinarily low golf handicaps.
There is something very Protestant in being busy, it’s part of our work ethic. Idleness is a sin and not working every moment is not making the most of opportunities given. Working in a parish is not like working in a firm, there is no manager or supervisor to act as your conscience, so a clear conscience demands justifying yourself to people, trying to impress upon them how much you have been doing. One thing that you never did was to say you were tired. This would be a failure of vocation, it would mean you were not sincere enough in following God because no-one would feel tired if they were doing what God wanted.
It took me years to realize that the Bible does not demand 365 days a year of work and that Jesus got tired, and even cross, at times.
Nine days before Christmas, feeling jaded already, I remembered the students’ sketch. It doesn’t survive, but its inspiration does. Here are the Pythons demonstrating a fine Protestant work ethic:
 
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of risotto.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
Nothing like a good glass of Château de Chasselas, eh, Josiah?
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
You’re right there, Obadiah.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Who’d have thought thirty year ago we’d all be sittin’ here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o’ tea.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
A cup o’ cold tea.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Without milk or sugar.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
Or tea.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
In a cracked cup, an’ all.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
Because we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, son”.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Aye, ‘e was right.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
Aye, ‘e was.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
I was happier then and I had nothin’. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, ‘alf the floor was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t’ corridor!
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
Oh, we used to dream of livin’ in a corridor! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Well, when I say ‘house’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
We were evicted from our ‘ole in the ground; we ‘ad to go and live in a lake.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t’ shoebox in t’ middle o’ road.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
Cardboard box?
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
Aye.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t’ mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi’ his belt.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN:
Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at six o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of ‘ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN:
Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to ‘ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o’clock at night and lick road clean wit’ tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit’ bread knife.
FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN:
Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:
And you try and tell the young people of today that ….. they won’t believe you.
ALL:
They won’t!

3 comments
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  1. They were lucky Me ‘n’t thee grew up in High Ham!!!!!

  2. Tha was lucky, ah spent three years on t’ Dartmoor

  3. Tha was lucky . . I spent ten years on Ilkley Moor bar t ‘at before being shipped tut antipodes!

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