Tuesday 13 February 2018

Loo-ever Wishes: the Saga of Wotton-on-the-Edge

Look, I've been busy. I'm a working druid and I've been off on an ecumenical visit to the Sheep-Worshippers of Wensleydale. Which is a heck of a commute.

Especially when you congratulate the Head Herdsperson on the lovely picture of a Wensleydale Sheep in the lobby of the Sacred Sheepfold. And she tells you that's actually Rowan Williams when he visited a few years back. Embarrasing.

But understandable.  Anyway. The thing I've not been blogging about all day.  Very important. All over the news. And Twitter. They've done all the jokes already.

No, not the news about the way the Government has put its foreign aid and mental health services off-balance-sheep. Sorry. Off-balance-sheet. Thus making it the client of a bunch of charities that should be independent, friendly critics. And a poor custodian over the sort of bodies that should be scrutinised.

No. The toilets at Wotton-Under-Edge Church.

The thing is, someone who is - as one might say - closely linked to this blog has published a book called "Writes of the Church". Which has many, many, spoof letters to my friend Nathan's church magazine.

Copyright precludes that I should quote too much. But let us just say that the esteemed Major J Dumpling, of Tremlett, complains in the book that the toilets the vicar is proposing to have built in the church are unnecessary. In James's words, in his day they just used to go in the graveyard. While his friend Bradley Hadleigh complains that the new children's corner "may attract children".

Well, a few objectors in Wotton-on-the-Edge used both those excuses to complain about the changes. I reckon they've been reading the book.

One, particularly up to date, says that toilets in church are a bit of a fad. I presume he's been running out to go in a ditch since 1963. But you know, to each his own.

Other churches have loos in the building. They're not plagued with smells and unpleasant sounds. Though if they are, I suggest the answer is incense and plenty of bells. But the claim that it's OK the Parish Room has loos isn't a brilliant one.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the church is pretty short of gentlemen and of young people. If you want to make the place welcoming to elderly gentlemen, a toilet within a short distance is a great idea. Not least if that elderly gentleman is leading the service. If having children in church is regarded as a good idea - approved of by Jesus Christ, though not so much by Bradley Hadleigh - then having changing facilities and an easy place to run off when you hear the words "need a poooooooo" is a great idea. And apologies for the use of the phrase "run off", which sounds like what happens if Little Oliver needs to pay a visit, but the church hall toilets are too far away so he ends up doing "it" on a table tomb.

To those who think that a toilet in church is "undignified", there's a door. Helps no end with keeping the unseen from being seen. Meanwhile, has nobody realised that the building is literally surrounded by buried dead people? If that ain't undignified, I don't know what is. Unless it's an octogenarian priest, having staggered (literally) to the end of 1662 Said Communion, getting halfway across the churchyard before realising he'll have to go right on the place where it says "in eternal memory".

And then there's people with disabilities. I presume the toilets in the church will be accessible - because it's the law these days. The ones in the Parish Room?  A disabled person might need someone to accompany them across. It might be raining. Obviously I don't know. But it might be that the Church should just show itself to be bloody welcoming to people for once in its bloody life.

So I wish the incumbent, Robert Axford, well. But now the diocese has approved the change, I hope he doesn't get too carried away. Flushed with success, he may introduce modern worship like "As the Dear Pants". He may be tempted to replace the Book of Common Prayer with the Wee Worship Book.  He may, on the other hand, sit back and just go through the motions. Maybe once a loo has been introduced, he may have to rename the Standing Committee.  We just don't know.

But a toilet in the church? It's  a no-brainer, innit?  Just a word to the wise for visiting speakers. Switch the wireless mike off when you pay a visit.

Pictures from Wikimedia: "Sheep" by Amanda Slater.  "Shepherd":
By Brian from Toronto, Canada - Archbishop of Canterbury, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.


  1. Some rural churches (like in my last parish) are putting in Earth toilelts, as they are too far from a water main to put in conventional facilities. And these are OK for No 1, but No 2 is verboten. Not sure why, but methinks the elderly Church Wardens are not willing to dispose of soiled, soil.

  2. Not an expert on these things, but I don't think I've, er, encountered a non-water-mains facility that didn't allow both options.

    Another challenge in church buildings that have been around a while is finding a suitable spot. I've been in one or two where there is a toilet put in long, long after the building was erected, and you really need a suitable native guide to find it. One of my favourites is the one where you go up the aisle with everyone staring at you, past the people leading the service, through one of the two doors to the back regions, across a sort of cluttered area, through another of several doors to a storage room, and there's then entrance to the toilet. Or you can brave the snow and head out to the parish hall, hoping it's unlocked, which it won't be if everyone's in the church.

  3. Toilets inside churches can have their drawbacks. I clearly remember a item in the end-of-mass announcements at a church I will not name, requesting parishioners to at least try not to flush the thing during the consecration (presumably the user could hear the service going on), as it could be heard all over the church.


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