A Unique Parish?

Catching up with the latest instalment of An Island Parish we got a bit of an insight into what it is like for a priest coming into a new parish.

The commentary on the programme quite often highlights the unique nature of the parish of the Isles of Scilly – but from what we saw this week it may be geographically unique, but in many ways it is has just the same problems as any other multi-congregation benefice, wherever in the country it is located.

The two Churchwardens summed up the kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t dilemma that faces any new vicar or rector. You come in wanting to make your mark, indeed people expect you to be better in areas where perhaps your predecessor wasn’t so good. Equally, you can’t change things massively, otherwise it risks alienating the congregation.

The situation is more difficult when dealing with multiple congregations – Rev Guy has six churches to deal with, and needless to say they are each different. When asked how he was doing, he replied that his honeymoon period had lasted barely a week before he’d upset someone.

Having said that, the big issues were precisely the same sorts of issues that new clergy often come up against. The congregation on one of the off islands were objecting to his choice of services – the implication is that Rev Guy is from the churchmanship where the Eucharist is central, whereas the congregation in this case was wanting non-Eucharistic services (my thought is that they’re probably wanting prayer book matins). When we had a similar situation here at St James, both services were offered, but obviously with six churches to run that’s not really an option here. The second big issue was another one that causes a good deal of problems all over the place, in that Rev Guy had refused to perform a wedding for the divorced daughter of an important parishioner. Although it is now legal for divorcees to remarry in the Church of England, it is left up to the conscience of the particular priest involved. Some I’ve known, like Rev Guy, won’t do them at all, others I’ve known would do a service for people who are members of the Church if they knew the situation, others have no problem at all. It is still somewhat of a hot potato in Church terms, such that on the occasions we’ve had such services at St James, the PCC is usually informed.

Of course the big difference for Rev Guy, comes from the geographical uniqueness of the Isles of Scilly parish. On the mainland, if he has a big issue, he has other clergy around who he can go and talk to – here they are across thirty miles of sea, and whilst they would be able to provide support over the phone, it’s not the same.

Hopefully as the series goes on, Rev Guy will settle in more – certainly it’s a lonely job if it gets any worse…

Step Back in Time


I’m probably tempting fate, but after a wobbly start, Torchwood series two seems to be shaping up quite well.

True, episode three was a bit of a sci-fi staple in terms of plot, with your classic temporal paradox, and there was one point where we were getting all the stereotypical ghost story clichés (didn’t you just know when Gwen turned on the light that the fluorescent tube would be faulty and flicker… 😀 ) however much as with last weeks episode, To The Last Man was just generally pretty well executed.

Again at the heart of the story was a character piece, this time focusing in on Toshiko, aside from Jack the only character to have crossed over from Doctor Who, and who quite often doesn’t seem to do much except come out with techno-babble to move the plot forward.

Here she is the main focus of the episode as she looks after a World War One solider that Torchwood has had in suspended animation for ninety years. Every year they wake him up to make sure he is still healthy, as files from the Torchwood team at the time say that he will be needed. Here though is the paradox in that they only know to take him as a result of his future self telling them to do so – something he knows because he’s been told to say that as a result of files left by the past Torchwood team for their future colleagues!

However, having spent time with Tommy, the solider, Toshiko falls for him – only to find out that in order to save the world he must go back in time to his death. In this respect it explores similar themes to Out of Time, the episode in the previous season where Owen falls for Diane a pilot whose plane appears through the rift, but who ultimately decides to leave. The big difference here is that Toshiko ends up having to persuade Tommy to go through with what has to be done.

Being a temporal paradox it seems as though the story is being told in flashback, as it opens with Tommy and Tosh appearing to the 1918 Torchwood team, and then you see how they get to that point during the rest of the story.

Much as with last weeks episode, without flashy guest stars, the episode seems to work pretty well. Alongside this things seem to be moving along with Jack and Ianto, and it does seem that in 1918 at least, Torchwood recruited all their operatives from public schools…

Money Saving Expert

I’ve been signed up on the Money Saving Expert mailing list for a while, but looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever recommended it here.

The site is run by Martin Lewis, who turns up on all sorts of magazine programmes talking about money. Amongst other things he has been influential in campaigns to get people to reclaim unfair bank charges, and more recently in getting people to check and appeal their council tax banding – something we’ve done successfully in the past.

Perhaps what he is most influential for now is his website Money Saving Expert, where his stated aim is to redress the balance between the consumer and the big corporations. As he says in his introduction to the site, we live in an adversarial consumer society, where the primary purpose of the companies out there is to make as much money from us the consumer as possible. Indeed companies will spend large amounts of money on flashy advertising campaigns to get us to by their products, ensure they have highly trained salespeople in order to sell us stuff we don’t want, and yet what do we as consumers have?

The site is a gold-mine of useful information – in the past I’ve used the tips on the site to find the cheapest telephone service for calling Canada, found cheap flights, and so on. It has won several awards, and indeed has been cited on a couple of occasions in parliament for it’s influence. Essentially the site brings together tips from Martin and many other users, all geared towards doing exactly what it says on the tin – saving money.

There is also the mailing list I mentioned at the top, which sends out details of special offers and deals, and keeps you updated when recommendations change. There is a real mix of stuff from simple two-for-one offers, to more specialist tips which would probably only be of interest to a small number of the more than a million subscribers to the list – in that vein we actually applied for another credit card at the weekend primarily due to a tip on the list, as by using the new card for a couple of months we can get 20,000 free miles for my BMI Diamond Club card – a good chunk of a free trip to Canada.

You’re not going to take advantage of every offer, indeed probably not most of them, but there are always one or two that can save you either a little, or a lot of cash, and certainly it is well worth heading over to the site and signing up for the e-mail.

You Think It’s Cold?

So with the weather forecasters predicting an ‘arctic blast’ coming our way in time for the weekend, and ‘sub-zero temperatures’, I thought I’d just post this picture of the weather that our cousins across the pond in Alberta are experiencing.

Note, that the title of this picture, taken in Edmonton yesterday is “It’s Warmer Today” – the temperature on the display is -26. Calgary has been getting a similar selection of temperatures too.

It’s Warmer Today! originally uploaded by one42chrisp