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Abbot Peter describes his vicar

Posted by Simon Parke, 19 February 2018, 4.22pm

In the Prologue to ‘Another Bloody Retreat’, before taking us to the desert, Abbot Peter describes his new vicar, doing his best to be polite…though failing.

‘I’m not unhappy with my present home, far from it. I run daily along the seafront and then follow the white cliffs towards Cuckmere; the views are magnificent.

And the little church nearby puts up with me, in the main. I don’t criticise the sermons and neither do I molest children, so they really should be grateful.

The vicar is a good man in his own small way. He’s emotionally narrow, with only a few responses available. He also lacks imagination in his handling of the mysteries – oh, and he’s criminally negligent towards the communion of saints, whose skulls so crowd the earth.

He ignores the past in some insane rush to ‘do church in new ways’; this is his phrase, God help us.

‘We are not separate from our history!’ I do try and tell him this, in his sprint to be modern. ‘History is not some classroom activity – and exam we pass – but something we are in, up to our eyeballs. We sit on its shoulders…like monkeys screeching nonsense on the back of a sage.’

He did take offence at this, and I had to reassure him that I was not comparing him to a monkey. He is a busy man, full of energetic plans and deeds.

But his language is drawn from the shallowest of wells and diluted with desperate sentiment, as he tries to drum up interest and support in his wares.

He reminds me of a fish, thrashing on a shoreline, as the ebbing tide departs.

Or perhaps I am the fish. Things have changed and left me behind. These days, the church has business plans, targets, goals and mission statements; it has a corporate identity, a logo and press officers.

The church, like a software company, now talks about the market place. It must be more eager, more thrusting and noisier than its rivals.

It must dance, skip and run marathons dressed in amusing clothes – anything to gain attention – to place the product of Christ before people’s eyes.

Product?!

‘We are sales people, God’s sales team!’ said the vicar last Sunday. ‘And our product is Christ!’

At which point, I quietly left. I have never believed a salesman in my life.

‘Another Bloody Retreat’, Abbot Peter’s Desert years, is published by White Crow and available now.

 
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