Diary Of A Sociopathic Vicar - Part 57
A time for peace to all people, a time to anticipate the birth of Jesus Christ our Saviour, a time to go fa-la-la.
We were holding a carol service on the site of our new church. Which was exactly where the old church had been before I burnt it down for the insurance money. At the end of the carol service, we were going to be laying the foundation stones for the new building, or rather, unveiling them. Builders feel uncomfortable allowing the public to wield a trowel if a wall is to last beyond six months. Hence they had laid a few courses of stone for the east wall – which would be behind the altar – and set the foundation stones on top. It was a simple matter of pulling a cord to unveil each stone, which even the dimmest member of the public can do.
The entire area was covered by a marquee, and space heaters kept it up to a sensible temperature. As there was a light drizzle, and the weather was on the cold side, it was most welcome. This had been arranged by Psycho; I’ve never been sure where he gets these things from, and he doesn’t encourage questions. Al, our deputy organist, president of the local chapter of Hells Angels and former rock star was talking to a TV crew. The arrangement was that the service and foundation stone business would be recorded for posterity in return for allowing them to film his wife, Danni singing her Christmas single, “Snow”. Apparently, a former member of a girl band singing a Christmas song in a church with a Christmas tree and children might make a good video.
“Good evening, David,” said Violet Johnson, entering the marquee.
I was doing meet–and–greet at the entrance, so I returned her salutation and enquired, “How are you tonight?”
“So much better now those police have gone. They were scaring the fairies away.”
I nodded sagely. If you believe that there are fairies meeting above the well at the bottom of your garden, and the last crazed member of a heretical cult – fresh from killing the other cultists – should fall into the well… It is not surprising that you will be disturbed by the police. This is the problem with the Diocesan Finance Office – they just keep making life difficult for the average vicar. First, one of them starts a cult intent on taking over the Church of England, then they all murder each other, then – the icing on the cake – the sole survivor bashes in the brains of my Lay Reader before falling down a well. It’s not surprising the Church of England has the financial difficulties it does.
After Violet, Mabel arrived with her parents.
It seems to me that I have made little mention in my diary of Mabel. This may seem somewhat remiss – after all, she is my fiancée. Yet there is a good reason for this apparent omission. It has emerged that not only is she a little dim, and somewhat evangelical, but she is also rather dull. Thus, there is little that can be said about her. Do not think that this is in any way a criticism – if anything, it is the exact opposite. It makes her all the more suitable to be my wife. Let us be honest – if she were in the least bit interesting, then once I become Archbishop of Canterbury, she could become a liability. No, far better that she be dull as well as being a somewhat dim evangelical.
“Nice to see you, David,” said Jim Goodall, her father.
“I’m glad you could make it,” I said.
“Well, you know that we don’t really hold with this…” He gestured vaguely at building works and marquee, “…material glorification, but we can’t deny that you’ve grown your church.”
Mabel might be somewhat evangelical, but her parents were very evangelical. They did for the Church what the Teletubbies did for children’s television, except without the baby’s head floating in the sky. It has never been clear to me what happened to the rest of the baby, but I do not feel that Laa–Laa has a trustworthy face.
Moments later, Detective Inspector Dennis Thorpe entered with his wife.
“Good evening, Dennis,” I said, “I hope this isn’t business?”
I added a smile to let him know I was joking, and he gave a little chuckle. During my time at St James, I’d put quite a bit of work his way.”
“Don’t worry, David,” he replied. “They’ve finished with that mess over at Mrs Johnson’s. Tragic, really. Did you know that her husband died falling down that same well?”
As it happened, I did. Not only that, but I was logically certain that I knew who had arranged for him to fall down the well. She was currently checking the flower arrangements in the marquee. That’s what Abigail Horton did when she wasn’t acting as my housekeeper or murdering people. I really must find out more about her, but times have been busy.
Gradually, the space filled, the congregation bulked up by children from the local school and their parents. Later, the children would be singing something during the servic, but for now they gravitated towards Danni. They had found out who she was and were in awe of her. She made time for all of them with a natural grace that eludes me, and submitted to endless selfies.
I reflected that it’s funny how these things work out, as when I’d first met Al, Porker and Psycho it was because I was the only priest in the area prepared to take the funeral of a Hells Angel. An interesting year.
The service went smoothly, starting with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. It is compulsory to include it in a carol service, and it is a sensible starter. The service took the form of a carol sandwich, with singing interspersed with appropriate but short readings from the Bible, and the occasional prayer. Mable’s parents demonstrated both their evangelical credentials and exceptional deltoid development by keeping their hands raised above their heads throughout. When the children had their turn, they sang their song with the sweetness and inaccuracy that one expects of their age group. Doting parents photographed them with abandon – and the camera crew made sure to capture the moment.
Then came the laying of the foundation stones.
Naturally, I was required to say something, but I kept it brief.
“At theological college,” I began, “I was told they could not prepare me for everything I would encounter as a priest. They were right.”
There were a few chuckles – you can put personal anecdotes into public speeches and sermons as long as they demonstrate modesty. I continued, “They also told me that when the unexpected happened, to trust the people in my parish. Again, they were right.”
This brought a lot of self–congratulatory nods, despite being a lie.
Friends,” I said, “It has been less than a year since I first came to Sutley, and it has been a time of tragedy, and expectation. Tragedy because of the loss of those who were close to us.”
I paused here, to allow people to think of those who had died in the past year. Realistically, apart from Mordred’s murder by Graham Walters – very recent and quite gruesome – they were probably going through an exercise of, “Oh, yes, poor old so–and–so, used to sit over there, now what was their name? No, I think that was the year before...”
After a suitable gap, I moved on. “Tragedy because of the loss of our old church through fire. But it is a time of expectation, expectation not only because of the growth of our congregation, but because of the rebuilding of our church! Today we are unveiling the foundation stones for the new church. The foundation stones from the old church are already in place” – I gestured to the relevant part of the wall – “a lasting reminder of those who came before us, but today we build for tomorrow. It is good that this has happened at Christmas.”
I paused again. It is good to pause every so often while speaking, as it creates a sense of tension.”
“It is good, because just as we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, today we celebrate the rebirth of our church.”
With that, I pulled the cord, and unveiled the first foundation stone.
“Laid by Rev. David Wilson, to the glory of God,” it said. A simple message, non–controversial, and, most importantly, one that the stone masons could fit on the stone.
Next, Psycho unveiled a stone in the memory of Mordred. It has been a job getting a stone done in a couple of days, but I knew that it would be a popular move – certainly more popular than Mordred had ever been. It noted that Mordred had been a Reader in the Parish, and that it had been unveiled by Psycho Path, Reader in training.
Psycho had decided not to say anything, but just remained silent for a few seconds. A good choice, unlike Geraldine Simmons, head teacher of the local school we were using for services during the rebuilding. I had spoken for just over a minute – I always time myself when I practice – but she spoke until people were shuffling around and looking uncomfortable.
Jill Baildom, our regular church organist unveiled another stone. Al declined to come up for the unveiling, although his name – and his professional pseudonym – were inscribed. Strictly speaking, he was our deputy organist, but since breaking both her wrists, Jill had confided a desire to perhaps play a little less often.
Next up was John Witherington, our local MP. As he’d first been elected a decade or so ago and had a majority of over 20,000, it seemed like he’d be around for a while yet. A good choice to unveil a stone, from my point of view. He gave a simple, crisp speech, and completely failed to understand how to pull the cord to reveal his foundation stone.
I said a concluding prayer, then added, “Thank you for all coming. Tonight we have a special treat for you. We have here Danni, formerly of “Nothing Good”, singing her first solo single, “Snow” – and I’ve just been told that earlier tonight, it was declared this year’s Christmas number one.”
Needless to say, it became something of a party atmosphere after that. Certainly more of a party than was to be had at Musdon Minster, where an irate Bishop wanted to know where all his clergy were. Presumably, someone would have to break the news to him that they had all been members of a heretical cult and had killed each other in an orgy of violence. All twelve of them. I expect they had compared themselves to the twelve apostles. As I mentioned earlier, heretical cults just make life difficult for everyone.
Eventually, everything was cleared away, and made ready for the Christmas Day service – we had the marquee until the Wednesday, so we were going to make use of it. I returned to the Vicarage feeling rather relaxed, running over the arrangements for the next day in my head. The service was straight–forward enough, but after that I was hosting a Christmas dinner for those who would otherwise be on their own. That takes a little more planning than a service if you’re not going to patronise people. I was also looking forward to seeing the videos that had been made that evening. I was assured that they would be injected into the Christmas Day news stream. As I was putting my slippers on and considering the possibility of a hot chocolate before bed, the phone rang. Phone calls to a Vicarage at this time on Christmas Eve were seldom social. With a sigh, I answered it.
“Saint James Vicarage – David Wilson speaking.”
Disclaimer: Despite the assertions of the Rev. David Wilson, Laa-Laa is quite trustworthy, unlike Noo-Noo. However, at least he has spelled Laa-Laa’s name correctly. It is a matter of frequent concern to the Diocesan Office of the Disclaimant that Laa-Laa is often mis-spelled as “La-La”.
A map of Sutley may be found here:
The Sociopathic Vicar will now be taking a break, during which time he will be writing a guide to church services, and how they may be conducted. He will return at some point in 2022.