Wednesday, 27 October 2010

When All Around are Losing Theirs

I'd like to paint for you a picture of parish life in the Year of Our Lord 2010 - a moment in time, a snapshot -  a moment that happened, and is true. 

Imagine a vast medieval parish church, like a barn and just as drafty (sometimes). I want you to imagine that church during a normal week. That church is normally busy during that time, people popping in and out, things to do. In the north-east corner of that vast church is the parish office, and in it the Parish Administrator weaves orders of services, rides Outlook like the possessed beast that it is, delegates the completion of so many registers, attends to the needs of the telephone enquirers. She drinks her coffee black, and tries hard to keep warm. 

In the south-west corner of that church is its Refectory. Always busy, plying panini and cake, coffee and soups - homemade, delicious. The punters are regulars, friends. The queue to order food ebbs and flows, with each order coming with a chat and a giggle with the the noble folk who staff the Refectory. The food can be smelled, its tastes anticipated - drooling mouths ponder its forthcoming delights. 

In the church the clergy roam - often in pairs, mostly at speed. A rector and a curate, bearing some physical similarities it is said, though the curate is far younger. People to talk to, jobs to be done, coffee to drink, reflections to be shared. The piano is in the wrong place, the flower-ladies are due; talk about money soon follows, as always - but all will be well in the end.

In the north west corner of the church, behind two doors is a kitchen - not a little affair like a home kitchen, but one built to serve the needs of the Refectory. A large hob supports gentle simmering pans of leek and potato, harvest vegetable - in the oven bread rolls and eccles cakes gently brown and come to their moment of perfection. To the left sandwiches are typically made in quick succession, panini too - if that is your desire, kind soul. But not at this moment, not now. The kitchen is normally suffused with the smell of baking and food coming to temperature, cheese and bacon in the grills, the subtle smell of freshly cut salad, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce - but not at this moment, not now. The kitchen is a place to find laughter, chatting, the busy industry of the church-catering enterprise - such tonic, such balm for the ears amid the stresses of life - but not at this moment, not now. 

In this moment the drain had backed up, the lid had flipped and its goo had poured forth all across the floor of the kitchen. The smell of fresh baking was replaced by a more dubious odour. The calm serenity of a working kitchen was supplanted by the screams of psychotic harridans - one whirling in tight circles in one direction, one in tighter circles the other direction - like a malevolent Tasmanian Devil. The scene is one of panic and screaming, unknowing and tension - noise and haste all colliding and crashing in on one another. The pastry lady was at her wits end, the sandwich lady at the end of her tether. The mess was awful, it was everywhere - what to do, what to do - please God, help us! Their feet were wet and gooey their moods fractured, the noise levels rose to fever pitch ... except for the washer-upper in chief

....he was stood still, ankle deep in drain gunge, singing Kum Bah Ya

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