I reckon this is just apocryphal. But only just.
It happened to a friend of a friend, who was on a PCC which was known for its fractious debates. The Rector had already installed a metal detecting tunnel over the Church Hall Door. But after the unfortunate incident with the plastic explosive and the leader of the Outreach Group, she'd had to introduce a regime of random pat-downs, and started dropping heavy hints about rubber gloves.
It was one of those villages which was dominated by a small number of families, who divided down tribal lines whenever there was any kind of controversy. Which was always. And the subject of Item 9 on the agenda this particular Monday evening was a real old favourite - was it time to buy a new Knitted Nativity set?
There had been whispering and campaigning in the village for weeks before the meeting. The Knitting Circle was massively in favour of the idea - as was the owner of the local wool shop. The relatives of old Deidre Day, who had knitted the original set, were set against it.
So the excitement built through Prayers, Apologies, and all the way up to the debate on which sort of light bulb to use as a replacement in the gent's toilet. Always a popular subject in its own right. Someone would normally propose a 10W Compact Fluorescent bulb, at which point somebody else would say that Fr Watts would allow nothing other than a 60W incandescent. Then it would be pointed out that you can't buy them anymore. Then old Gracie would admit she had 700 old-fashioned light bulbs stashed away in the garage "in case the Portugese invade", and somebody would say could she donate one to the church, and Gracie would say she donated a light bulb in 1982, and she reckoned it was somebody else's turn.
And so the long evening would wear on. Normally. But on this occasion, they just agreed to ask the Property Committee to draw up a list of three alternatives and report back in six months, and bashed on .
So to the knitted Nativity. Daphne said she thought it was time to get a new set, as the old set was getting worn out. The Knitting Circle were all set to go, and the owner of Knice Knitz was offering to knock 10% off the list price in exchange for a small placard thanking them for their generosity.
Deidre's great-grand-daughter defended her ancestor's work. It was part of the fabric of the church. Sure, it was a bit grubby. But a bit of TLC and it would be good as new.
Jez said that he was concerned the set was not so much grubby as infected with anthrax. He asked, rhetorically, whether they really wanted to wipe out the village?. Oddly, some people were warmer to that prospect than you might imagine.
It turned out that Rosinante was an expert on anthrax - or, at least, had Googled it once. She shared with the PCC a three-hour diversion on the life cycle of the disease, and the history of the island of Gruinard.
At the end of Rosinante's dissertation, just as the Rector was looking to go to a vote, Charleston ventured the opinion that the Joseph in the existing Nativity didn't have a proper head. They all howled him down, saying Joseph certainly had a head. He demanded the Joseph be exhumed from the large box in the Sunday School cupboard and examined. Sure enough, it appeared that Joseph had lost his head at some point in the past. Probably 1975, to go by the best-before date on the Chocolate Orange that had been put in its place. A side-bar debate broke out as to whether a best-before date was the same as a use-by, and whether it would still be safe to eat. There were no volunteers, although Branwen told an anecdote about seeds that had been excavated from a pyramid.
A pattern was clearly setting in. The anti- and pro- camps were quite evenly balanced, and there was uncertainty as to which way the vote would go. So each side was trying to filibuster the other in the hope the opposition would give up and go home. Every time the Rector tried to get to the vote, somebody thought up another anecdote, and kicked on.
By 8 am the following morning, the milk had run out. The Rector told them no supplies would be allowed in until the vote was held.
At 10 am the first compromise was suggested - that the old and new sets be put in different parts of the church. The Knitting Circle people said fine, as long as the new set was the one in front of the altar. This was not acceptable to the Deidre's Memory faction.
By 8pm that evening, they had also turned down the idea of alternating the sets, either on a yearly, weekly or daily basis. Or even using one set for Mattins and the other for Communion.
At 2am, somebody suggested they keep the old set this year, but delegate a Knitting Sub-committee to debate what to do about the new one. They had Wise Men thrown at them.
At breakfast time, having run out of both tea and coffee, they were reduced to water and bourbon biscuits. Somebody remarked that, if the new set were knitted each group were represented by their own hymn set to an unusual tune. For example - While Shepherds Watched to the tune of Ilkley Moor Baht 'At. It was noted that Joseph was more Baht 'Ead. The secretary sent out for a new notepad for the minutes.
At lunchtime on Day 3, somebody ate the chocolate orange. The resulting hospitalization slanted the odds slightly in favour of the Pro- faction. They pushed on with their compromise
By 6 pm on the third day, the proposal was made that they knit the new Nativity Set out of the wool from the old set. It was passed unanimously.
They got through AOB in only 5 hours. That's the trouble with a long meeting - you whiz through the later stuff.