I have just returned from the Mayor Making in Aylesbury, the town where I live and minister. For those unfamiliar with this little bit of quaint English ceremony, it is more formerly known as the Inauguration of the New Aylesbury Mayor and Deputy Town Mayor.
In this country, the mayor is the 'first citizen' of the town, an already elected member of the town council and a resident of the town. To some it is a pointless and quaint role, but I have seen it in a different light through the haze of my red-wine.
We have just said farewell to the outgoing mayor, a magnificent Hindu lady who, if you cut her in half, would have 'Aylesbury' writ-large through the middle of her. She was replaced by a matey of mine Graham, a mover-and-shaker in the local Scouting Association and a proper top-bloke. But the point of the mayor is more that just the job that they hold (and the preposterous outfit that they are expected to wear in the Civic Centre [languishing as it was at about 100 degrees - it gets pulled down next week, so never mind, poor civic centre).
As a minister of religion, a priest if you will, I am a passing ship in this town. However, witnessing so much of the civic life as I do as part of my particular job has taught me that the place where I live and work now is not just a postcode. Aylesbury has a strong beating heart, and that heart is personified in the person of the mayor. Aylesbury needs its mayor more than its MP - because the mayor is Aylesbury, not just a representative. This is a fine town, with much that is good and a little that can be improved - but I learned tonight that a town is so much more than an accident of geography - it is a living being. I have a passion for the town, and now that I share the chaplaincy to its mayor, I can also be passionate about its figurehead. This is a proud town, self assured. It is in safe and loving hands for another year. He might be called upon to wear the last generation of ferret upon his mantel, but it is counted as important and counted as worthy that he does and that we celebrate this remarkable place.
* and for those wondering what the reference to 'duck' means in the title - the Aylesbury duck is the town mascot