Vicar’s Window March 2018

Dear friends,

Did you know that I am, apparently, a blogger? I received a telephone-call from a man in Newcastle to say that he enjoyed reading my blog. “What blog?” I asked. ‘The one on-line on your church’s website.” “You mean the ‘Vicar’s Window’ in the parish magazine.” I replied. Does this mean that I have been a blogger since before blogs began. I would like to think of myself as the first blogger, were it not for the fact that clergy have blogged since S. Paul. (His, of course, being declared Holy Writ because the Church said it was. That is how the New Testament came into being.)

So, before we get on to anything religious, may I be allowed space to have a moan about corporate meanness in our society? Here are three examples:

1) Not being allowed to exchange five old £2 coins at the only remaining bank in Tunstall. It was bank policy not to provide that (or nearly any service) for people who did not bank with that particular company. “We look after our clients.” I was told. Maybe, but only until the bank decides to close more branches in order to boost profits. I only called in because my own bank had closed two local branches in recent years.

2) Every year, the car repair organisation presents me with a renewal notice. It roughly amounts to twice what I end up paying. I phone up, query the amount, and it is instantly reduced to half or less.

3) Christmass is a busy time for clergy and I didn’t intend to turn my car upside down so soon after Christmass two years ago. (Yes, that crash with Father Paul in the passenger seat – or do I mean roof?) This meant that the insurance of the replacement car is renewed soon after Christmass Day. I managed, this year, to overlook the notification and only discovered, with the arrival of my credit card bill, that my insurance had doubled. Nearly half a day on the computer and telephone resulted in a cheaper insurance with another company – and the loss of about £100 because of the transfer, not to mention another £80 for some other reason which I couldn’t fathom.

Why my particular gripe about the latter two incidents? For the simple reason that firms make a lot of money out of people of a certain age and/or disposition who assume that loyalty to a company will be rewarded. Not the case. If I had gone on line with the same insurer and asked for a new quotation (“quote” is a verb!) then the same company would have given me a much lower premium. It is exactly the same with home insurers. The outlandish premium is calculated on the assumption that the client will have the nous to look elsewhere or, at least, challenge the calculation. It is a good idea to have the cheapest quotation at the ready, that figure is often matched or bettered. Could it also be calculated in the hope that the client won’t even notice or think of challenging the figure?

I well remember two events involving Margaret Thatcher. The first was the horror at hearing her quote from the (so-called) Prayer of S. Francis at the start of her Term of Office. (“How could she?” I shouted at the television.) The second was her observation that “people like choice”. I don’t. I don’t want to have to calculate the cheapest I train fare or the cheapest route. I don’t want to spend hours finding a cheaper, more ethical gas supplier or, indeed, being at the mercy of the water company. I want a cup of coffee as I know it, not some nonsense of working out which on the board is nearest to a strong, hot coffee with a dash of ordinary milk.

Rant over. I hope everyone is enjoying Lent. I am finding the hour’s silence (with Eucharistic Adoration and, often, Morning or Evening Prayer) a real treat. I am not on my own and nor am I the one to get the chapel ready. I have no idea how much time is spent in prayer but there is prayer as well as recollection and, indeed, sheer silence and stillness. There is still time to come. Why not ask yourself the question, “If the entire congregation was made up of duplicates of myself, what would the worshipping and witnessing life of this church community be?” Don’t be afraid of growing in the practise of your Christian life. I am reading a book by Brother Ramon S.S.F. He writes very clearly about conversion and sanctification. We turn to Christ and then we put on Christ. We become Christ’s brothers and sisters in baptism – and become his brothers and sisters as we grow in Him.

So to Holy Week and, once again, walking in the footsteps of the Lord on His journey to Calvary and the Tomb.

The last day of this month leaves us waiting. Have a good rest of Lent.