I have been reading P. J. O'Rourke. I know, I know, I'll include it in my next confession. It is so annoying when a brilliantly funny satirist is also a gobby Republican. I feel equally guilty chuckling at Jeremy Clarkson, someone who makes me roll about the floor clutching my stomach whilst nurturing many new and convoluted ideas as to how he might die horribly in a caravan accident.
I don't often buy books on the basis of the title but I first found P. J., as I will chummily refer to him now, when browsing. All the Trouble in the World (the lighter side of war, death, pestilence and famine) had me hooked and didn't disappoint.
At the moment his book The CEO of the Sofa is helping me laugh my way to sleep. It's worth buying alone for his essay on why wine tasting is best carried out drunk.
I feel rather guilty about using put-down humour. It doesn't much stop me as you know, but if I were a journalist not a priest I would be mining a thick seam of comedy fuel in my regular visits to the centre of Nailsea, local churches and almost everything containing the word Deanery, Synod or both. Who could fail to be amusing whilst clutching a freshly printed copy of Archdeacon's Visitation News? Sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance - for those occasions when the premiums of the many need to compensate for the acts of God on the few.
Of many bon mots I particularly liked, 'If considering a change of architect (for whatever reason) parishes are encouraged to speak with the Archdeacon first.' Subtext - Archdeacons have a long list of architects from whom we should stay a minimum of bargepole distance. I advocate the Bond-villain method - take the architect outside; see that some harm comes to him. Also, 'Remember you are not obliged to use your church architect for everything.' Damn. I was going to get her to do the flowers.
The comedian usually shines a mirror at the audience. We look at ourselves and laugh. Trouble with the church (and how many ways could this sentence end?) is that the only mirror is in the vestry and in need of a clean. When used in the body of the church it tends to scare the natives. Whilst trying to avoid the temptation to stand on a soapbox and scream 'I am well balanced and moderate' I think we need a bit of stand-up ecclesiology. Well balanced and moderate can come across as alarmingly lefty in the C of E.
Last night, at the Archdeacon's Visitation, whilst I was taking bets as to how many of the choir would fail to make it down the single, three-inch step off the dais, I wondered. Has the church joined the massed ranks of organisations so far removed from reality that it is unable to laugh at itself? Don't get me wrong. Lovely people. Lovely. We're just a bit funnier than we realise.
I loved the moment when the Rural Dean, having welcomed our Baptist and Methodist guests, stated, after a lively Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, 'Who says Anglican can't sing?' So weren't the guests singing then?
Next time I apply for a job (which may be soon if too many people actually read this) I will put down under hobbies, 'manufacture of chemical poisons, strangling small animals and introducing 21st century music into church services.' Guess which one they'll ask me about?
Well now it's been good chatting to you but, by the clever manoeuvre of last week's day off to this week, which contains a Bank Holiday, I have completed my two days work and now intend to have this week's day off followed by a light Saturday. You'll find my invoice for being amusing hidden in the expenses claim. Thanks P.J.
(Sponsored by Archy Deacon's scrap metal services - home of the easily lead)