Guest blogger, The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University. He completed his studies for the ministry at Latimer Hall, Durham. He is married to Daphne and enjoys home brewing, model railroading and is an avid member of the Great Snoring Morris Dancers.

Now that you mention it, I did read about the lady vicar in Essex who is having a bit of a kerfuffle with the folks in the village. Name’s Lorna and at the clergy lunch the other day Lavinia said they were at theological college together. Lav she never did like her very much. Too Evangelical. I know what she means. These Evangelical types are all well and good in the suburbs where people can choose if they want smells and bells or tambourines and happy clappy music and all that, but you know village life is rather different. There’s usually only one church (apart from the Methodists) and as St Paul says, we’ve really got to be all things to all people.

For my money you’ve got to be middle of the road if you know what I mean. The old Anglican middle way is the way for me. Broad Church is what I am and what I mean to stay. After all, it’s right there in the gospels isn’t it? Our Lord says, “Broad is the way?”

Problem with these Evangelicals is that they always feel they’ve got to be up to date with some sort of fad or other–always wearing clerical shirts of different colors and grinning at everyone all the time and saying “Praise the Lord!” Seems this woman Lorna up in Essex wanted to pull out the pews and replace them with plastic chairs, coffee machines and a new heating system. Not really what we want, now is it? I have to admit I rather like a bit of damp and chill in the church during the winter. Nothing wrong with pulling on a pair of long johns under your cassock. Reminds me of my school days at  St. Botolph’s in North Wales. And what on earth what do we want with coffee machines? The electric kettle, a cracked mug and a PG tips tea bag is enough for me.

Problem is lads, I don’t much like the liberals either. Lavinia and her crowd can be most tiresome. Funnily enough, they’re always trying to make the church up to date in their own way too, but for them it’s not plastic chairs and heating systems. They want to bring in all that politically correct fol di rol, and I heard that some of them don’t even believe in God at all. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind anyone coming to church, but Lavinia and her crowd are always so preachy and, well, angry about something or other. As for vicars who don’t believe in God, why that’s not the done thing. Not at all. Just not cricket. Talk about ‘Honest to God’! They ought to be honest and pack it in and get a job as a social worker or a bus driver or some such. I don’t mean to be harsh, but good heavens! What’s it all coming to?

This business with the pews being ripped out and plastic chairs and atheist vicars has got me thinking you know. Daphne is always rabbeting on about ‘tradition’ and how the Roman Catholics don’t worry quite so much about being up to date all the time. She was chortling on the other day saying that “We Catholics like to be out of date not up to date.” Said something about marrying the spirit of the age and ending up a widow. Couldn’t quite understand what she meant, but I got to wondering if the Pope had written anything about pews and plastic chairs and so forth. When I mentioned it, Daff just did that snort of hers from behind the Daily Telegraph.

Still, it does make a fellow think. We Anglicans do get ourselves rather worked up over things, and it seems none of us can agree about much of anything these days. Not a bad idea to look over your shoulder from time to time and see what the Christian chaps thought in times past. I mean to say, most of the the problems we have must have been faced by somebody or other in the past. I mean it might not be exactly a question of plastic chairs and coffee machines, but you get my drift. Then there’s the matter of who makes the decision in the long run. The Parochial Church Council and Diocesan Synod are all well and good, but lately I’ve been wondering if Major Wildebeest and Mrs. Throckmorton-Gusset are really the folks to be making decisions about important matters like Holy Communion and funeral fees and so forth.

What’s that? How am I getting on with that statue of St Bernadette that the fellow in Lourdes gave me? Oh not too bad really. In fact, it’s sort of growing on me. Never thought I’d like that sort of thing, but it’s there on the mantelpiece next to a photograph of my old labrador Trixie, and Daphne puts the odd vase of roses up there from the vicarage garden. Rather nice in it’s own way. Mrs. Doyle put a candle up there with it, but I thought that wasn’t quite what we want and put it in a cupboard.

The little figurine is alright I suppose. It helps to keep the peace with Mrs Doyle and She Who Must be Obeyed. Not that I go for all the kit and kaboodle associated with the poor girl. Can’t be doing with all that vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception and so forth. At college old Jim Bracket used to call it the Immaculate Deception…har har. Lot of nonsense if you ask me.

By the way, I found out something most extraordinary from Mrs. Doyle. Did you know they claim that the wax dummy they have in a glass casket in that convent in France is actually the body of Bernadette and that it hasn’t rotted after all these years? They say it smells of roses when they open it up. My word! These Romans will believe most anything if their priest tells them it’s true. Levitating saints, miraculous bones, and stigmata and saints bi-locating! What poppycock! Next thing you know they’ll be telling us there are leprechauns at the bottom of the garden.

But never mind. Mrs Doyle’s a good soul, and she means well. At least she and Father Hawkins down at  Our Lady of Lourdes aren’t having plastic chairs and coffee machines and atheist vicars.

Another half of lager shandy? Why thank you Ian, and could you manage a bag of roasted peanuts? Thank you so much.