Turning off the radio, “I could have produced that programme”, I thought: a piece with two voices interspersed with interview clips with third parties. I used to produce radio pieces for an independent station, editing them in the studios of an independent Christian group in Belfast. Once, I made a whole programme, a 27 minute item called “A Summer with a Marching Band”; I went out with a local accordion band and talked with them about their traditions and their thoughts.
The radio work had to be abandoned when a move to another parish left no time for it. The few pounds the station paid never covered the cost of making the pieces, so I was better off, in time and cash, in not doing the stuff.
As the years have passed, most things have gradually been squeezed out.
“What do you do for interest?” asked a man last week.
“I don’t”, I replied.
What did I do? I took the services and I knocked on doors; what else was to be done?
“Maybe it’s like being a dentist”, I said to him, “the work is not exciting but you get on and do it because that’s what you are there for”.
Years ago, there were clergy who were antiquarians and natural historians, and scholars in all sorts of esoteric subjects, but they were people of means living in times when human knowledge was not fragmented into tiny specialist chunks. What would you do now?
Upon reporting the conversation with the man to the good lady of the house, she suggested further study. Proper study is prohibitively expensive when paying your own fees, and being sixty miles from the nearest academic library makes the enterprise impractical. The ersatz qualifications offered by religious institutions seem hardly worth the effort. People training for ordination now come out with an immediate master’s degree; why not go the whole hog and give them all doctorates? It diminishes the efforts of those who work hard for degrees in the secular world when the church engages in grade inflation.
Once, a friend, who is a columnist and broadcaster, suggested contacting the Sunday newspaper for which he writes a column. An initial letter to them received no reply; a handwritten letter to the editor brought no response. Someone from the newspaper’s Internet Service Provider’s address clicked through a couple of pages of the blog in the space of a few seconds and then left it: it was obviously not their style. Even an email saying “Thank you, but no, thank you” would have been nice, but the world in which they operate is not a nice place.
What do I do?
Get on. There’s a lot to be done before Sunday comes around again.