The opening words in a really fun encounter which, at times, felt more like I was playing the Mel Smith Character in one of those most excellent 'Alas Smith and Jones' programmes. Putting something into the bin I noticed one of the locals (I didn't recognise) having a butchers at the noticeboard. and me being me I popped over to say good morning and to engage with them.
So there I am (replete in Norwegian shirt rather than dog-collar variety and therefore incognito) asking them if they're looking for anything in particular. They give me an odd look and so I explain that I'm the 'Vicar' and their opening gambit is: 'Church, so what that all about then?'
"We're just a bunch of people who believe that Jesus died for us on the cross so that we can be in relationship with God and because of that, just like Jesus came to serve others, we try to serve those in our community too."
They look at me a bit quizzical and then ask, 'So how much do you charge for the tea and coffee and stuff then?' To which I respond, 'We don't charge anything - our Monday and Thursday mornings are free.'
'Free?' says they, 'What do you mean free?'
"We don't charge anything, tea, coffee, biscuits and cake are all free,' I say, beginning to doubt my own powers of communication, 'Nothing at all - no cost!'
'So if you're a member, it's all free then?' they ask.
'It's all free even if you're not a member - it's there for anyone in the community (or elsewhere) who happens to be passing and fancies dropping in for a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit or cake . . we are just there to add something to the community; a place for people to come to if they fancy a change of scenery and some different people to talk with.'
'What about the lunch, is that free?' they ask. So I explain that it's not actually free but costs £1.50 to help to defray our costs. 'So that's not free then is it?' they asked again and continue with, 'So what do you do it for? Do you talk to people about God and stuff and get them to join when they come in then,' they ask.
My response to this is, 'No, we talk about the local news, what's on the television and anything else that crops us. We aren't looking to get people to come in and join us, we're looking for people to come in so we can offer them a cup of tea (or coffee) and a chance to relax with others from the community because there's nothing else, and nowhere else, to go round here.'
'So, what's that all about then?' they ask and just as I think I'm going to get stuck in a loop they see the bus coming down the hill and leg it off to the stop to catch it.
Indeed - 'Church, what is it all about then?'
Have I ever mentioned that I love this Vicar stuff?