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14 October 2016

The Vicar was always on about Fresh Expressions; so the boys tried out a few

The Vicar was always on about Fresh Expressions; so the boys tried out a few

Gadgets and gizmos
ELECTRONIC calendars, anyone? I was chatting to one of my spiritual directees, telling him that I was off to buy a new Filofax. He laughed and said, “Goodness, that’s very old-fashioned, isn’t it?” It hadn’t actually really occurred to me that it was, but, chastened, I thought I had better have a go with electronic calendars, since everyone else seems to be using them. I thus continued my unwilling voyage into new technologies.

I started off with my iPad calendar, and was pleased when I managed to fill in all my dates, complete with travel time, reminders, and directions. I was tickled when perky little reminders started popping up on my Apple watch, and felt that I had finally progressed into the 21st-century hinterland. Then the problems started.

I realised that my iPad and iPhone were not always synchronising, and I discovered that, although I was using my Outlook calendar, I was getting confused with that and the Google calendar. Added to that, I then found that my parish office was using something called a Zoho.com calendar, after one of the churchwardens had managed to wipe most of the parish dates off the existing Google calendar (I was rather proud of her).

I then realised that the two other churches in my new patch do things differently, too, not to mention the two church schools. I have come across something called a “Cross Platform Sync” that promises to knit all these together into a great, wobbling monolith of a calendar, which would duly have me in its thrall.


Traditional and proud
AT THIS point, my soul rebelled. When I was first ordained, some 27 years ago, all I had was a Filofax diary (lovingly known as my Curatofax), a landline phone, and letters. No answerphone, no computer, no emails. In retrospect, how blessed. On the whole, it all worked. So, although I will refer to all this electronic wizardry (I now have a Zoho calendar app on my phone), I am still going to get a new Filofax, and will go back to hard copy. It might be very ’80s, but I don’t care — deep down, so am I.


Best of intentions
I AM still gradually rising from the chaos of moving. One benefit is that I have been able to sort all my books, pretty much for the first time ever. Downstairs, in my new office, I have about 1500 theological books, and I am in awe of them. I am impressed that I have about 125 biblical commentaries, and whole swaths of spirituality — about 150 — and oodles of books of prayers and meditations.

There are shelves of pastoralia, and shelves of liturgy — all in all, enough to display my sanctity and erudition. What a splendid priest and pastor I would be if I had actually read them all; but, sadly, I haven’t. I remember a friend at university who was diligent at photocopying articles and chapters, who would trim them, punch holes, in them, and put them into fat efficient folders; but he would never quite get round to reading them.

Alas, I’m afraid I am the same with all these books: full of good intentions, but rarely getting round to actually reading the things. I hope that I will now be shamed into doing so, but we know where the road that is paved with good intentions leads to.


In for a Pound
UPSTAIRS, it is a bit happier; there is a plethora of bedrooms in my new rectory, and I have been able to devote one to all my books on fiction. A friend who came to help move me in spent a week sorting all the books (thanks, Jules), and it will, I think, become a real retreat, once I have got an easy chair and a standard lamp. Pride of place, though, goes to my collection of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, poets who are important to me.

Looking at my copy of Pound’s Cantos, I was transported back to my recent sabbatical in Venice, to the cemetery island of San Michele, where Venetians and others are buried. I visited it, and was moved by the graves of Stravinsky and Diaghilev (people still leave ballet shoes tied to his tomb), but my chief target was Pound’s last resting place in the Protestant cemetery.

I duly found the little plaque dedicated to him, and viewed it in meditative silence. But not for long. I am fairly susceptible to insect bites, but have rarely been so badly bitten as in the Protestant cemetery where foreigners are buried. The rest of the island was fine; purely in the Protestant cemetery were there these insects that prayed exclusively on Protestants. All I can say is, whenever I read Pound again, my calf muscles will throb in sympathy.

Maybe in my new electronic calendar I should score some days through for reading, both theology and poetry — and pigs might fly, in the maelstrom of parish life.


The Revd John Wall is Priest-in-Charge of the Uckfield Plurality.

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