Reading through the newly published Sonning Parish Profile includes one thing I didn’t know – the church owns the local pub! I wonder if that means the Vicar and Churchwardens get free drinks?
I’ve just had one of those evenings where nobody knows what to do, but people turn to me because I’m the Churchwarden!
When I turned up at choir practice the kids were still over in the Parish Centre on their break, so I went into the church, and there was a small creature in the middle of the floor of the north aisle. On closer examination it turned out to be a bat – and a rather inactive one at that.
Many people who have been to our church will know that we have regular visits from bats, but this one was a lot smaller – and they are usually flying around, not sat in the middle of the floor. Luckily Meg our Parish Administrator was around as well, having an additional practice with the Handbell Group. She has regular bat visits at her home, and also had a booklet of contact numbers in the office from previous problems with the bats in the church.
First off we phoned the local vets, who directed us towards the RSPCA. It is worth saying that tonight was one of the rare occasions when I didn’t have my mobile with me, as it was back at home on charge, as a result trying to speak to the person who knew about bats at the RSPCA proved to be a bit of a pain. When you phone the emergency number you get through to a regular call centre person, who then passes a message to the relevant part of the organisation. They then phone you back – the problem being that twice I didn’t manage to get to the call. No problem I thought, I’ll just dial 1471 and ring them back. That doesn’t work though as the number you dial redirects you to the same emergency number where you can only speak to the normal call centre.
Eventually I got to speak to the bat person who said unfortunately there was nobody available in our area tonight, but that they would try and come out in the morning. She then talked about some of the bat behaviour, and said that the bat would be unable to take off from a horizontal surface – they need a drop of about five feet at least to get airborne, and that if we could move the bat somewhere that had this, that would help matters. She then also suggested trapping the bat in a box and providing food and water.
So what we did was put the bat on a shelf by the 1590 door – a place that bats can get into the building – and close to the wall, and then I came home. I then went back up about twenty minutes later to find that the bat had vanished – so it didn’t seem to be too unwell – the kids took it’s inactivity as being that it was dead, I think it was just trying not to attract attention. Anyway, either it’s still flying around inside the building, or hopefully by putting it close to the door where it could squeeze through, it made it’s escape. Suffice to say there isn’t anything in the Churchwarden’s Handbook about how to deal with bats!
Update: Seems our resident bat hadn’t gone – he was back on the floor of the north aisle at a christening this afternoon. Our Director of Music who was playing for the service left the 1590 door open however and he managed to make his way outside, and climb up enough of the wall to fly away.
With my Churchwarden hat on there was a good little bit of news from the Budget today – the news that although the basic rate of income tax will be cut from 22% to 20% on April 6th (which was announced last year), they are now not going to cut the rate at which Gift Aid will be paid out – at least not for the next three years. Financially, the drop in Gift Aid income would have made a small but significant impact on our income as a Church. Just a pity that the government only got round to doing anything about the problem less than a month before the change was due to take place, once Churches and charities have spent time putting together campaigns to highlight the issue to givers – it would have saved people a whole pile of work if this had been announced months ago… Better late than never though.
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…
So as a Churchwarden, I tend to have a pretty packed diary – indeed my reply earlier in the week when someone at work asked if I had a free week to visit a customer in the US before Christmas was to laugh…
So at 10:25am, my phone rings.
Beth: Hi, do you want to go along to the school Christmas production this year – it’s Grease?
Me: Yeah, when is it?
Beth pauses and says: In a couple of weeks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday…
Me: Well there are six weekends before Christmas, is it the 23rd/24th November – that’s a couple of weeks time?
Beth: No, I think it’s in December…
Me: Any idea when, so I can see whether I’m free…
Beth: Hold on, I’ll go see if I can find a poster…
Phone gets put down and the merry sounds of playtime can be heard in the background.
Beth: Can’t find one, might be 14th/15th December, is that okay?
Richard: Yes can do that weekend.
Beth: You want to come?
Beth: Okay, I’ll reserve tickets for us.
So anyway, assuming the date is right (14th/15th doesn’t clash with anything) I’m off to see the school production of Grease. Hopefully the dates are right as it would be a shame to miss it – on the basis of previous productions I’ve been to at the school it should be pretty good.