Thursday, 4 March 2021

Zen and the Art of Vicarage Heating

 On a cold and grimy winter's day like today, when spring still seems far off, my thoughts meander over to my old friend, Revd Tucker McJackson.

During his active vicaring career, Tucker was a wonder of the art of church reordering. He specialised in moving to a benefice with half a dozen churches, somehow persuading everyone that they needed to remove some pews to create a "flexible worship space", and then getting the faculty through.

What gradually became more evident, as time went by, was that he left each posting after he had achieved the last reordering - and that, on average, he managed one church conversion per year. Then he'd move on to another multi-parish benefice, and do it again.

A nosy rural dean noticed that, whenever he moved, Tucker always managed to land a parsonage with a wood-burning stove. And, upon closer investigation, it was discovered that his bills for oil heating were pretty much zero. But all the stoves he left behind were totally knackered from intensive use, and the flues were clogged with pitch pine resin.

So it wasn't the liturgical dance that had motivated Tucker to remove the pews. It was keeping warm for free. 

A church where a third of the pews have been replaced with chairs
"That'll keep us going till January, at least"

After that the bishop took an interest in Tucker's job applications, and steered him into a role where all the pews had already been removed.

Then Tucker started to take an interest in replacing hymn and service books with more trendy versions. And his churches had an outbreak of all-year-round Christmas Tree festivals. By the time he retired, he had put more fine particulates into the atmosphere than a year's traffic on the M25.

Once he didn't have the chance to strip biomass from churches on a professional basis, he took to hanging around after services, collecting up the notice sheets. The lockdown has really set him back on that one. But he's switched his tactics again. Now he goes into churches that are open for private prayer and pinches the hand sanitiser bottles. You know the way many open churches have people sat in them all day? They're not really monitoring where you're sitting so they can spray the pews down with Dettol. They're keeping an eye out for Tucker.

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