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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
A busy month for the clergy
March 2003

It's not as easy as you might think, being the clergy.

Sure, it looks simple enough. You put on your best frock and go to church once or twice on a Sunday, read out of a book, share your thoughts on some pressing issues of life 2,000 years ago, host a light meal, shake hands at the door and then take the rest of the week off.

But things look a little different from up here, so this month Crow's Nest, as a PR service for the men and women of the cloth, offers an insight into the ups and downs of their busy, busy world.

Where better to start than with Rev. Theo Vermaazen of Hengelo in Holland? He recently made the friendly gesture of handing out free copies of a new video of his choir to parishioners.

But some kind of mix up that the parish council has not been able to satisfactorily explain meant that the right labels went on the wrong videos. This being the Netherlands, the other videos were, of course, pornography. How many have yet been returned, I don't know.

More sauciness at All Saints Church in West Bromwich. The bloke-in-a-dress there, David Lord, has launched an appeal for women to donate their knickers, on the implausible grounds that the church clock needs their elastic.

"We've had a number of complaints about the clock showing the wrong time," he explains. "The workings of the clock rely on a length of knicker elastic to bring the counter balance to its full height." Yeah, right.

Pastor Steve Coad in Pinellas Park, Florida, is devoting his time to an appeal for something more orthodox – money. Taking a leaf out of the Desert Fathers' Bible, he's sitting on top of a roadside billboard. He'll be up there till he gets $1500, with, we're told, a potty, a tent, a TV, a mobile phone and a few other hygienic necessaries.

St Simeon sat on a pillar to mortify the flesh with nothing but a legful of maggots for company. In America they do it on an advertisement, with a telly, for cash. The more things change, the more they stay insane. And what exactly are you supposed to do with a tent on top of a billboard anyway?

Still, might be worth seeing how many other ministers we can persuade to follow his example. "You're doing great, Rev. It's going very well. No, no actual money yet, but we're all really behind you. We'll let you know when it's time to come down."

More potty-related fundraising from Rev. Chris Sterry in Lancashire, who has just preached the longest sermon in recorded history, weighing in at 27 hours and 30 minutes, black coffee and pulpit potty ever ready. Rather more arduous than watching TV at 30 feet maybe, but I know which I'd rather pay for.

Talking of what I'd rather pay for, the German priest Michael Fey of Duisburg supplements his income by brewing beer. Nothing particularly wacky about that, except that he makes it in his washing machine. It's a toploader, apparently.

"Jesus didn't say, take this healthy camomile tea," says Fey, "he offered wine." Yes, but he was then commended for bringing the best bottle to the party, which most NT scholars would argue indicates that he didn't make it the same tub he as washed his kecks in.

And let's not move on from the topic of filthy mammon without mentioning Karin Sandlund, the Lutheran Pastor of Norrfjaerden in Sweden. She has become the first minister to install a swipecard machine in church, so those who don't carry cash can make their contribution on the way out. There's someone who won't be needing to take her potty up an advert.

"Serving two masters" takes on a new twist in the wonderful double life of Jorge Barange of Madrid. Married for five years with one son, he managed to keep the fact that he was a priest secret from his wife. He went off "to the office" every morning, got changed and said Mass. His "business trips" were to Rome.

"My suspicions first arose when I noticed that our bread kapt changing into the body of Christ," his wife may not have been reported as saying. The Catholic priesthood has of course a very long tradition of secret marriages, but usually the woman concerned was in on it.

Then rather higher up the Catholic hierarchy we have Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia. At the age of 72, he has married a Korean acupuncturist called Maria Sung, and not only did he decline to keep it a secret, but married her in a Moonie mass wedding blessed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

After a chat with the Pope about some of the trickier bits of Catholic doctrine, Milingo has conceded that it was "a mistake".

The Pope might perhaps want to get his own house in order, as latest crime statistics show that the Vatican is the worst crime blackspot in the world. It is the only country where the number of crimes per year exceeds the population, with 1.3 penal offences per head, proving by the law of averages as I undertand it that the Pope is a mugger.

And this just in: a 32-year-old man has been arrested in Castelforte in Italy for knocking a priest unconscious at the altar so that he could take over and say Mass instead. I bet that's one they don't roleplay at priestschool. Like I said, it's not easy.
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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