M ost new jobs come with their big surprise – new arrivals find that they’re supposed to know about at least one quite unconnected activity; in the RAF, for example, I was a photographer yet I found myself, a non-driver, driving everyhing from Jeeps to three-ton Dodge trucks. And I was amused and puzzled to hear a little while ago that a Vicar has to know about granite, and the difference between ‘Blue Pearl’ and ‘Arctic Blue’.
Little more than a handful of years ago I would cheerfully and confidently have said that the job of a Church of England vicar is to stand up in a pulpit every Sunday and address the people sitting in front of him on the teachings of Jesus Christ. And of course to conduct all weddings, funerals and christenings. And to be prepared to make the occasional visit to those in need of personal counsel. I admired the vicar of our own church for the diligent and approachable way in which he did those things.
But then the truth was revealed. A son of ours became one.
Every week we see a copy of his ‘to do’ diary, covering every activity in the two parishes for which he is Vicar. (Or, in his own case, Rector – fundamentally the same thing but with certain fine historical distinctions.)
He has one day off in a week. In the mornings, afternoons or evenings of the six working days he will be either leading or supervising events in both parishes. These will include the various informal church groups, those for the very young, the teenagers, the parents and the elderly people. Intertwined with all these there are organisational meetings for the discussion and confirming of church matters, generally and specifically.
People come to him – parents, single people, young couples, each one asking for advice or help in matters of all kinds.
And, yes, the services of wedding, funeral and christening, all of them being given the personal touch. Then come the Sunday services with the preparation of sermons, of talks for the children (these sometimes illustrated with his remarkably astute puppet called Bonzo who argues the toss with him – very popular) and the hymns and songs.
But in his own family he has the sort of practical support that makes all the difference: a wife who looks after correspondence and shares leadership in the events, and two brilliant children who willingly, during some of their free time, take on any jobs that come their way.
So what about Blue Pearl and Arctic Blue? They are two popular types of granite used for headstones. Headstones in churchyards are required to complement the surroundings, so Blue Pearl might be appropriate in one but Arctic Blue in another. And it’s the Vicar who has to know which one is which when an application lands on his desk. He will be held responsible for mistakes.
All of what I’ve written is about just one Rev’s activities. There may be other, different examples. I suppose you could have one who doesn’t bother about all these things but I doubt if that one would last for long. Unless there was a bullying young puppet to crack the whip, of course.