I don't know what I was thinking about. When someone suggested that instead of restricting the number of people on the Moot Council, we allow all paid-up Beaker Folk to join if they wished, I agreed. They said it would let people contribute if they wanted. I just figured it would save us all that trouble we had last year. Postal vote fraud, candidates burned in effigy, ballot-stuffing, death threats - I tell you, North Korea had nothing on it.
What I forgot, is that a church ballot is just one day a year. But now I have a whole year of a Moot Council which proves the veracity of Eileen's Law.
For those who don't know, Eileen's Law states that the length of a Church Council meeting is:
A) Independent of the importance of the matters being discussed,
B) Proportional to the length of the agenda,
C) Exponentially proportional to the number of people on the committee.
It makes intuitive sense if you think about it. If there were just one person on the committee, the meeting would take as long as it takes to think about each matter and make a decision. Or, being a Church committee, defer the decision to the next meeting. Two people, and there's the chance to argue. Three people, and there's the opportunity for two of them to discuss how awful/wonderful it was when the Church last tried to do whatever it was, back in Mr Rowle's day. Ten people, and someone will say how poor old Maisie would turn in her grave if she knew you were moving the tea light stand - followed by someone pointing out that Maisie's not dead, and someone saying she's not well, and somebody else claiming she looked all right when she was dancing on the pool table down the Cranfield Club last Friday.
Then you get up to twenty people and it all falls apart. Under item 3 (Property), you note that the door mat needs replacing. Someone points out that Greeno gave that mat in 1958, and his family will be really upset if it's thrown out. Someone will say maybe, in the interests of utility and kindness, we should put the new mat on top of the old one. It will be pointed out that this might be a Health and Safety issue. The council pedant will ask whether that shouldn't be "an Health and Safety issue". You throw the door mat at him. Then someone notices that it's a Wilkinson's own-label door mat, and the whole conversation turns to who replaced the door mat without consulting Greeno's family.
And so the long evening wears on. If you're not careful, the books of old minutes will be opened, and some fool will be suggesting phoning former ministers to find out when the mat was changed. There will then be a suggestion that you contact the minister from 1958 to find out precisely what the terms of Greeno's original donation were, and you'll be into the depths of a row about why séances are wrong - while some people are threatening to leave the church and join the Spiritualist Church up the road, just to find out what happened to the old door mat.
In the end, last night I restored order with a fire extinguisher. Terrible breach of Health and Safety, I know. But it was that or gnaw one of my own legs off. And it's not like I let the extinguisher off. I just hit every speaker with it till they realised they'd all better stop speaking. Made a worryingly empty sound. Their heads, that is. I had the extinguisher checked recently.
Next year, there will be four lay members of the Moot only. And to avoid abuses, I am introducing a new method of election. I've always thought it was time to reintroduce Ordeal by Fire to this country. This will be the chance.