John Creedon played two tracks from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles as he closed his RTE radio programme this evening – The Tears of a Clown and The Tracks of my Tears. I bought that record when I was sixteen; I still have it. It was a Double A side. In Creedon’s playing of it the tracks ran seamlessly into each other. ‘How did he flip the record over so easily?’ I thought. Of course, it was a silly thought, there was no record to flip; the tracks now appear on the screen of a computer monitor and he simply presses the right icon or button.
There was a moment of feeling obsolete, an anachronism. It was a feeling that had occurred earlier in the day. Making toast in the Rectory kitchen there was a hissing sound. The washing machine must be leaking. Attempting to pull out the washing machine, it became apparent that it was built into the units of the five year old kitchen. ‘I need Noel’, I thought. Going out to the car in the hope of finding a screw driver, the very man needed was walking down the street. In moments, he had the woodwork dismantled and the washing machine pulled out – it was not leaking.
A large damp patch had spread across the wall from behind the adjacent units and there was a pool of water where the machine had stood, ‘You have a burst pipe’.
Peter, the faithful plumber arrived, ‘Oh dear’ he said. He had to cut a hole in the back of a cupboard to reveal a section of wall out of which was coming a steady spray of water. He needed a hammer and chisel to remove the plaster that concealed the pipe, which for some unknown reason had sprung a pinhole leak. A special qualification in suppleness must be required of plumbers because he had to climb virtually inside the cupboard to carry out the repairs.
Standing watching, I wondered why it was necessary to expend huge parish resources trying to live as though we were still in the 18th Century. Why did I need a 5 bedroomed 2,800 square foot detached house when there was only me? Particularly when my wife was living in an 18th Century house that had a dining room with a floor are as extensive as some people’s houses. It is not that the parish cannot afford it, parochial income was €130,000 last year, sufficient to cover my €37,133 stipend and €12,395 expenses and still have plenty to spare; it’s that there must be a better way of doing things. There must be a way of ministering that does not involve tying up huge resources in buildings.
Many people seem as much attached to having a Rectory in their parish as they are to keeping their church open, and the Church of Ireland reinforces such tradition by requiring clergy to sign they have taken possession of the house, but there must be a way of persuading them that a clergyman can function as effectively in a three bedroomed semi as he can rattling around in a house that is far too big. It’s like moving from playing seven inch vinyl singles to playing the music from a computer; the tune doesn’t change, it’s just delivering it that is different.