Over the weekend I found myself in conversation with a really lovely cleric. One of those really looked the part and as we talked I realised that they didn't just look the part but lived up to expectations in terms of their behaviour too!
As someone from a science and technology background I often struggle with the fact that people expect clergy to be bumbly and behave much like the cleric portrayed by Derek Nimmo in the wonderful BBC TV series from days gone by, 'All gas and gaiters'.
I go to do something and before I get to it I hear the inevitable, 'Oh, let me do that for you!' It seems that we (the clergy) have a fine reputation for being well-meaning and incredibly inept people and once you read the following, you'll probably agree.
The parson I met last weekend, after exchanging pleasantries, told me that he'd just come back from an awfully embarrassing experience where he'd gone to pick up another cleric, who was coming to speak at various of the local churches over the weekend, at the local rail station. He'd never met the man so he had little idea who to look out for but they agreed that he'd wear his dogcollar to aid recognition.
And so my companion related how they'd arrived at the station and soon espied the sought after dogcollar wearer. Having parked for a minute they beckoned them over, shook hands and placed their bags in the back of the car, loaded the guest speaker and drove off. "I should have realised something was wrong," said my companion, "When they spoke about delays in places North of here, but the penny didn't drop and we continued to the Vicarage."
It was only as they pulled up outside the house that the guest asked where the venue was for the eleven O'clock session as they appeared to be in the countryside and he thought they were in a college in the town.
As he was about to ask, "What college?' the other chap's mobile rang and the person on the other end was asking where they were as there was only a short time before the billed start of his session; so looking to my, extremely pleasant, new found friends he asked where they were. The answer brought panic to all three of them for it transpired that the man who had been picked up was nothing to do with the weekend's happening in the rural parishes but was the speaker for another Church event elsewhere!
Piling back into the car they were driven, at some speed apparently, back to town and onto the college where they arrived ten minutes late for the start of his session. The man apparently grabbed his bag and never looked back as he was sped into the venue. To make matters worse the chap our heroic, yet hapless, cleric had gone to meet had telephoned whilst they were on the way to the station to say that they'd been taken ill and had to postpone the visit.
I just love encounters like this because they show how easy it is to get embroiled in chaos and confusion; or is this merely something that we bumbling clerics suffer from.?
I loved it for as the story unfolded and it was obvious that the conversation was a cross between catharsis, mea culpa, counselling and a desire to unburden oneself in all; and it was also jolly entertaining.
But of course we've never done anything like this ourselves, have we?