The Vicar on Holiday

Guest blogger, The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University. He completed his studies for the ministry at Latimer Hall, Durham. He is married to Daphne and enjoys home brewing, model railroading and is an avid member of the Great Snoring Morris Dancers.

Daphne and I are having a smashing time here on the Isle of Wight. The Revd. Giles Clutterbuck, one of my cousins, is Vicar of Bonchurch, and we usually swap vicarages with him in the summertime. Gives us a break and I have to admit taking his two services on a Sunday isn’t too much of a bother. Giles and Phyllis have got a lovely rambling vicarage house overlooking the sea, so it makes for a relaxing break. For his part, Giles is a steam train enthusiast, so a week at the Vicarage in Little Snoring gives him the chance to don his overalls and volunteer at the Great Snoring and Trumpington Steam Railway.

Daph toodled off to Quarr Abbey for her service on Sunday morning. Wanted me to come, but I had to take Matins. We had a lovely time. Numbers were a bit down. Giles usually gets fifteen, but I had to do with seven. Daphne joked that they must have heard I was coming. She’s always got the ready joke has our Daph. I was able to go with her to Quarr Abbey for their version of Evensong. Thought I’d support her in her new religion. I must admit it was really, rather special. Something quaint and medieval about the monks all dressed in black trooping in and singing in Gregorian chant. I thought it wouldn’t be my cup of tea at all, but I found myself rather charmed by it all. Too much incense, of course, and I don’t really like all the palaver with the communion bread being put into a whatchamacallit and being waved around, but if that sort of thing is what you like I don’t suppose it does any harm.

Daphne was chatting with one of the monks afterwards about the visit of the Pope to England. She is getting quite excited about it all, and I’m trying hard not to be a party pooper. Daphne was getting all worked up about the BBC planning to do a mock trial of the pope for his crimes in covering up the misbehavior of his clergy. I thought it a jolly good idea, but Daph is up in arms. I mean, why shouldn’t the BBC put on a show that gives the other side? Everyone knows the good old BBC is a bastion of common sense, fair reporting and balance. There’s nothing to fear. I suspect the RCs are worried that even more mucky stuff will turn up.  If the man has covered things up he ought to be brought to justice I say.

It’s all well and good the Pope smiling and waving and riding around in his popemobile with lots of Italian bodyguards wearing sunglasses, but you don’t find the dear old Archbishop of Canterbury behaving like that do you? No you don’t. He stays at home at Lambeth Palace and writes essays and that sort of thing. He’s a humbler sort of fellow. I think its rather endearing the way he mumbles along at General Synod with his theological way of talking and then turns up at parish bunfights–always happy to have a cup of tea and a natter with the members of the Mother’s Union. You don’t see him jet setting and holding services for an unseemly number of people. It’s not the done thing in my book, and it simply isn’t cricket.

So in the midst of all the hoopla over the Pope visiting it might be a good thing to step back and remember just who he is and what he stands for. The fact of the matter is, the Pope still regards himself as the rightful ruler not just of his church, but of all the lands that once belonged to him. He’s a foreigner, pure and simple, and we mustn’t be deceived. Just because he comes here with a friendly face does not mean he is friendly. Just like all Catholics he wants what they call ‘the conversion of England’ and this means he wants to be in charge here just like it was before Henry VIII stepped in and tidied things up. Fancy them coming over here and telling us we need to be converted! The cheek of it! Not much gets me hot under the dog collar, but that sort of thing does I’m afraid.

Must dash. Daphne has plans for a picnic at the seaside with some friends. The basket’s full already. Cucumber sandwiches and fish paste on  crackers, jaffa cakes, a Victoria sponge, a nice chunk of the old mousetrap, Branston pickle, some oat cakes and rich tea biscuits with jam on. I think we may even have a peach. What a treat! It’s my job to get the flask of tea ready, load the Morris Minor with a windbreak, blankets and chairs, grab my straw hat and off we go!

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