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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
Soon, we had a worthy font in which to welcome a new member of
the family - love transforming what could have been a thorny
Elizabeth Figg is a former contributor to The Sign.
She is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.