Project Canterbury

A Town Parson's Day.

By Stanley John Forrest; Decorations by E. W. Forrest.

London: A.R. Mowbray, 1960.

A QUAINT conception of the way
In which a parson spends his day,
Is entertained on every hand
By those who do not understand;
Who wonder, sometimes comment too,
'Whatever can he find to do,
This lucky man whose work unique
Is only needed once a week!'
We know he gets his little pay,
But does he earn it, anyway?

Wait till this tale attains its end,
Perhaps you'll think again, my friend!

7 a.m.

OUR Parish Priest, with humble prayers,
In penitence himself prepares
To offer up the sacred Rite
Ordained on Maundy Thursday night,
When Christ, the Universal Priest,
Bequeath'd a eucharistic feast,
Commanding his Apostles all
To make it his memorial,
Not of a friend long dead of yore,
But One who lives for evermore.

Thus Holy Church has never ceased
To celebrate this sacred feast,
And every moment of the day,
The Christian soul may pause and say:
'Somewhere, exactly at this time,
Perhaps in some far distant clime,
A priest, before the altar bent,
Offers the Holy Sacrament.'

Our friend will thus his people bring
Before the throne of Christ the King,
And though the worshippers be few,
He has a blessed work to do;
Upholding all within his care,
In earnest, sacrificial prayer.


9 a.m.

EACH clergyman who really tries
To build a ladder to the skies,
Must start upon the lowest rung
By showing love towards the young.
Our Vicar has an Aided School,
An infinitely precious tool,
When carefully and well employed
And all advantages enjoyed,
And teachers chosen, so that each
Believes the Faith he has to teach.
For here the truth is soundly taught,
And children into church are brought.

The priest, who loves his girls and boys,
Will know in school a thousand joys,
As patiently the facts he finds,
To satisfy their hungry minds,
And he, who in the view persists
That teaching is for specialists,
Should note, that by this means, at least,
The children get to know their priest.

9.30 a.m.

AT half-past nine again we search
To find him praying in his church;
Engaged in meditation there,
For half an hour of mental prayer.

And critics who exclaim in haste,
'To what good purpose is this waste?'
Are merely showing their accord
With Judas, who betrayed his Lord;
For every Christian soldier knows,
We fight no ordinary foes,
But spirit hosts, who seem to be
Of infinite malignity.

Our greatest help in this campaign,
Is prayer, prayer, prayer again;
And every faithful priest agrees,
The war is won upon our knees.

10.30 a.m.

AT last we come to half-past ten,
And find the Vicar in his den;
Although in reading now engrossed,
He's duly answered all his post,
And filled a length questionnaire,
Which nearly drove him to despair,
And sent him on a dreary search
Through all the registers in church!
So now he is engaged, we see,
With Biblical theology:
For all who teach and educate
Must keep their knowledge up-to-date,
And those who give and give again
Must frequently re-stock the brain.

Good resolutions, vicars make,
And schemes of study undertake,
Which telephones, and calls abrupt,
Somehow contrive to interrupt!

10.45 a.m.

A CRASH! And a furious peal on the bell!
All hopes of theology quickly dispel,
For when an emergency tends to befall,
The priest must be ready to answer the call.
And there on the step, looking breathless and wild,
Is young Mrs. Brown with her turbulent child.
'I must see the Vicar,' the visitor cries,
'My lad is in trouble just to the eyes;
I've brought him up right, but he keeps going wrong,
He'll be in the juvenile courts before long.'

The Vicar agrees and will plead for the child
If Tom undertakes to avoid running wild,
Adopting a hobby, like cricket or chess,
And won't get involved in a similar mess.
Perhaps he'll develop a healthy desire
To come to the Scouts or to sing in the choir;
And Mrs. Brown, too, will be helped in her charge,
By not letting Tommy meander at large,
By making the home more inviting and gay,
And helping the lad in his work and his play.
'Join up with our Mothers, each Friday at two,
You'll gather some excellent tips if you do.'
And so Mrs. Brown, from her worries set free,
Dissolves her last woes in a nice cup of tea.

Our Vicar, however, perforce must depart,
A wedding awaits him, all ready to start,
So, off to the vestry, with hastening stride,
Arriving in church, just ahead of the bride.

11. a.m.

THE bride and bridegroom all intent,
Display no shy embarrassment,
For careful vicars always use
Explanatory interviews,
To set the parties at their ease,
And obviate the knocking knees;
To try and show each man and wife,
The sacredness of married life,
And teach that Christian parenthood,
Is wholly and divinely good.

Here, then, the couple plight their troth,
And swear the sacramental oath,
To love with strength, and mind and heart,
All loyally till death do part.
And this reciprocal consent,
The Church's blessings now cement,
Our Vicar thus completes the rite,
And ties the knot all trimly tight;
Then, having set the details down,
Must run to catch a bus to town.

12 noon

AT the Diocesan Office beneficent,
Seeking the focus and centre of all,
Vicars, with cankering worries maleficent,
Oft in emergency anxiously call.
Witness our hero, for curates, or missioners,
Putting across an impressive appeal:
'How can I possibly serve my parishioners,
Giving the people an adequate deal?
How can I manage to offer a curacy,
There, in a parish without any cash?
Only last year I went down with the pleurisy,
Doctors are saying I'm bound for a crash!'

Spoke the Official with dignity suitable,
Taking a safe secretarial stance,
'You must apply, by procedure immutable,
To the Diocesan Board of Finance.
Then, as we cannot assist to satiety,
Having commitments in different parts,
Try the Additional Curates Society,
Rothamsted Avenue, Harpenden, Herts.'

2.30 p.m.

A MAJOR problem, which obtrudes,
Is visiting the multitudes;
To call upon them where they dwell,
And get to know the people well.
A priest, whose area enrols
Some ten or fifteen thousand souls,
May well at many houses knock,
And meet a fraction of his flock.
But it is all that he can ask,
To scratch the surface of the task,
Unless facilities are made
To find an extra curate's aid.
For though the work is never done,
Two priests can do far more than one.

Our Vicar, having lunched in town,
Although the rain is pelting down,
Makes certain calls, as is his wont,
On those who care—and some who don't.

3 p.m.

HIS duty now he must fulfil
To those who are severely ill.
And kneel to pray beside their beds,
Or lay his hands upon their heads;
And thus supply in every case,
A ministry of healing grace.
Then, consolations he must bring
To those in mental suffering:
The troubled, anxious or bereaved,
And pray their grief may be relieved.

The details of this ministry,
Must always confidential be;
And many do not understand,
How constantly throughout the land,
The Church performs, behind the scene,
This sweet, compassionate, routine.

3.30 p.m.

IT's really quite an easy task,
To visit, when the people ask,
But difficult to go elsewhere,
To those who simply do not care;
Who haven't any use for church,
And rather leave it in the lurch;
Who think the parson's visit queer,
And wonder: 'What's 'e 'doin' 'ere?
I know I 'haven't been inside
'Is church since Auntie Sarah died;
Although I don't attend, it's true,
I'm just as good as them as do.'

So Mrs. Jones, defensively,
Prepares a telling repartee;
The Vicar, who is not a fool,
Dilates upon the Sunday school.
The which, he's confident, her boy
Would really very much enjoy;
Which she, becoming less severe
Considers not a bad idea,
Reflecting how the little chap,
Disturbs their after-dinner nap.

But whether Jimmy comes, or no,
Only the day itself will show.

5 p.m.

THE final sausage goest to rest,
Within our worthy cleric's breast:
For, in the circumstances, he
Prefers a good substantial tea;
(Or, possibly, because his Dad,
Was born and bred a Yorkshire lad,)
And while he eats, has time to look,
Into a light, amusing book.
But, since all day he's had to live
Before our stares inquisitive,
We'll give him half-an-hour's release,
And leave him to his tea in place.

5.30 p.m.

MOST laymen settle down to tea,
Their business done, their evening free.
But vicars, and their curates, too,
Have still a lot of work to do.

So, after thirty minutes break,
A private churching he must take,
Wherein is duly reconciled,
The mother of a new-born child,
Who offers up, on bended knee,
Her thanks for safe delivery.
She goes, for churchings are not long;
The priest remains, for Evensong.

6.30 p.m.

AT half-past-six there comes to pass,
The younger Confirmation class;
And some are bright, and some are slow,
And some have very far to go;
Others are lukewarm, others hot,
Some are attentive, some are not.
But still the priest will persevere,
Until he finds the most sincere.
Likewise the female candidates,
The best of whom he nominates;
For whom, in ten or fifteen weeks,
Before the Bishop he bespeaks;
Who, on a duly chosen night,
Performs the apostolic rite,
By means of which the Holy Ghost,
Confers the gifts of Pentecost.

7.30 p.m.

NOW the Youth Club claim the Vicar,
Make him fetch the 'parish tank';
Hope to reach their camp-fire quicker,
Down beside the river bank.

Richard, Harry, Joan and Rita,
Everybody shouts and sings,
Piling in the old two-seater,
Straining all the ancient springs.

Kindly bobbies hold the traffic,
As along the party spins;
At the Vicar's smile seraphic,
Breaking into friendly grins.

8 p.m.

NOW the event of the evening's begun,
Here in the firelight is laughter and fun,
Here is a leader who helps them to sing,
Sending the items along with a swing.

All who suppose that the clergy are prim,
Gloomy or sombre, forbidding or grim,
Might get a better idea of the truth
Watching the Vicar amusing the youth!

The evening ends; they all combine,
To sing a final 'Auld Lang Syne.'
Then home; except, well, you-know-who,
With still another job to do.

10 p.m.

THE Men's Club now is found to be
Engaged in keen activity,
A hot discussion taking place
On how to help the populace;
And show that Christians do possess
The key to human happiness.

The Vicar quietly takes a chair,
And sits to watch the whole affair;
With genuine parental pride,
His men should thus be occupied,
And so excitedly engrossed,
Concerning things that matter most.

But think not, Vicar, you can sit,
And just enjoy the local wit;
For, when the speaker's done his best,
Then you will have to do the rest.

At last the Vicar leaves his men,
Arriving home at half-past-ten;
And now he finds himself alone,
His time is all his very own!

And thus, from parish duties freed,
He'll smoke his pipe and try to read;
And strive to summon up the zest,
His morning paper to digest,
But faculties refuse to act,
Our parson is completely 'whacked';
Which isn't very strange to say,
After a fourteen-hour day.

11 p.m.

AND so to bed he goes upstairs,
Undresses, kneels to say his prayers,
And tries his best to concentrate;
But now the hour is very late;
So silently away we'll creep,
I fear he may have dropped asleep.

To-morrow, after dreamless rest,
He'll face another day with zest,
And yet he'll do it with a smile,
Believing it so well worth while.
But frequently, you'll hear him say
That Sunday is his easy day.

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