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Diary: Elizabeth Figg

06 February 2015

by Elizabeth Figg


Enlightened visitors

DASHING across to church to retrieve the cocktail sticks left over from our Candlemas Christingle-making (all will become clear), I found an elderly couple perusing the notices in the porch. They were, they explained, visiting relatives in the area, and had come to see if the church was open.

We are restricted in our movements around the building at present, but there is still much to be enjoyed; so I took them in.

As we left after our tour, the woman asked: "And are you the Vicar? I am so pleased we have our first woman bishop."

I explained that I was not, but I could not help smiling as I thought how far the Church has come. 

Refuge for rodents

"TWO today." My husband, Robin, held up a battered carrier bag. Last autumn, we found the tell-tale signs that mice had decided to seek sanctuary in the church building. "Winter is coming," Number 3 Son intoned sagely when we roped him in to help set the humane traps.

Well, winter is most definitely here; and, having had a brief lull in mouse activity over Christmas, we now have to set the traps nightly. This involves raiding Robin's stash of chocolate, and placing tiny portions in the traps - it seems that mice, in common with most of the clergy I've ever come across, have a weakness for chocolate.

Once we've caught them, we release them into the leaf piles in the woods at the bottom of our garden. This may not be altogether humane, given that the vicarage cat, McGonagall, a misanthropic feline, makes the velociraptors of Jurassic Park fame seem benevolent.

To see the mouse-hunting, search on YouTube for "Hoots Mon! There's a Moose Loose Aboot God's Hoose!" 

Exchanged for a crown

STANDING over a pan in which a murky concoction was bubbling, I resisted the urge to mutter about newts' eyes. I was in the middle of staining 300 cocktail sticks to be used as "thorns" in a Lenten activity I'm preparing for the community primary school in the next village.

We are making a "crown of thorns", which, over the course of Lent, will be transformed into a "crown of flowers". Children who have displayed kindness, compassion, or love for their classmates will be nominated to take out a thorn and replace it with a flower - I found some colourful foam flowers in a craft shop - and the transformed crown will come into church for our Easter celebrations: a symbol of the power of love, which is, after all, what Easter is all about. 

Kitchen-sink drama

OVER the past few years, the American theologian Michael Hardin has been a welcome visitor and friend to our parish, leading retreats and holding seminars in which he has shared his exploration of mimetic theory and non-violent atonement. Anyone less like a theologian in appearance would be hard to find: one sixth-former commented, when he visited the local school: "He's like a cross between Hagrid and Dumbledore - shaggy, but very wise." I would add a little Jimi Hendrix into the mix, as he is a talented guitar-player.

I will never forget the time he sat in our kitchen, playing guitar and singing a song that he had written on the nature of the Second Coming, questioning the perception that Jesus will be angry. The title of his song was "Why is Jesus always coming back pissed?"

He had been going to sing it at our Sunday eucharist, until I pointed out to him that "pissed" had a different meaning on this side of the Atlantic.

Made to order

WE ARE a friendly church, but we have become even closer over the past few week. A fall of plaster in the nave has meant that we are now squeezing into the chancel to worship until a full inspection and appropriate remedial work can be carried out. Since our building is Grade I listed, this involves a lot of consultation, discussion, and communication with a plethora of "interested" bodies, and will, inevitably, be expensive.

All this means that we will be in the chancel for a while yet. This has pros and cons: on the plus side, everyone is enjoying the chance to sit facing each other across the aisle; the singing has improved; and there is a general sense of enhanced fellowship. The down side is that it is cold - not merely chilly, but deep down, bone-numbingly cold.

Our aged heating system blows hot air from two vents in the floor at the far west end of the church; so the chancel of the "Lang Kirk of Craven", as our church is known, doesn't benefit much.

One challenge was our first baptism of the year. Being unable to use the font seemed a huge hurdle, but different members of the congregation brought precious items: a beautiful little table made by a great-grandfather, and a wooden bowl lovingly carved by a husband.

Soon, we had a worthy font in which to welcome a new member of the family - love transforming what could have been a thorny problem.

Elizabeth Figg is a former contributor to The Sign. She is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.

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