Posts Tagged ‘church hall’

Coat Conundrum

Well, the new term is underway and we’re back to parish life in full swing. Our midweek groups are back on, we’re getting frequent callers at the door and there are kids squealing in the churchyard in the evenings. And coats being thrown on the church hall roof. Of course.

Wondering if a ladder and a tall vicar will be enough to solve this one

Wondering if a ladder and a tall vicar will be enough to solve this one

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We had some excitement in the parish today – a ‘suspicious package’ was found in a house just round the corner that was being raided for drugs. Residents in houses close to the raided property were evacuated, and we were asked if we could accommodate them in the church hall.

So we were there with the teapots and some biscuits, on and off all morning, whilst we all speculated about what was happening. I quite enjoyed myself – particularly because I met a couple of neighbours that we’d not previously had the chance to speak to. It was a bit of a pain for them, though – one friend was without her diabetic medication, another lady had her two young children with her, but not their toys, people needed to get their cars to get to work. Most folk took the opportunity to go shopping in town but returned later to hang around and chat at the end of the street or pop into the hall for more refreshments.

Finally, after about 31/2 hours, we were told that people could go home. I stayed behind in the hall to tidy up and the local PCSO and his Sergeant came and chatted. Turns out the suspicious package wasn’t Semtex, as had been suspected, but something to do with with preparation of drugs. They seized cannabis wraps from the property and made three arrests. More drug dealing – the house next door to that one was raided a few weeks ago and seizures made for the same thing. I reckon you could probably raid a couple of houses on every street in this parish and find evidence of drug use or dealing.

The police were quite cheery, as these arrests were made on top of two successful operations locally earlier this week. A house just opposite the church was raided and found to contain a stolen motorbike and 27 stolen bicycles. And only last night they carried out some checks with immigration officials. They found illegal immigrants, but also some dodgy vehicles that were being stripped down, including a vintage Rolls and a BMW that had been nicked from Police HQ.

So a good week for clamping down on crime – well done to our local coppers. It does make you wonder what’s happening behind closed doors when the police aren’t calling. And makes us pray for this broken parish all the more.

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On Thursday mornings, I organise a coffee morning in our church hall. I try to invite all the mums from the school gate, but in practice there are a regular group of about ten who come almost every week. They are a great bunch – friendly and chatty and fun to be with. I bake cakes every week and others either bake or bring something they’ve bought. We sit for a couple of hours, discussing whatever is on our minds.

This week it was banana choc chip muffins and cinnamon rolls

This week it was banana choc chip muffins and cinnamon rolls

So far, so middle class and just like any other church hall coffee morning for school gate mums. But it’s a bit different where we are. For starters we often have a bloke or two join us – people work shifts here, or are single dads or don’t have any paid employment. And then there are some of the conversation topics…

I’ll just share with you some of the things we chatted about this week. Some regular bog standard school gate talk, but others special to our part of God’s world, with its unique challenges:

  • How to get our kids to get on with their school work, and career paths we envisage for them
  • The upcoming school Christmas fair
  • A lunch club a few of us helped out with the other day
  • The local drug dealers, and a ‘conversation’ one of the ladies had had with a youngster who seems to be getting involved with the trade
  • The excellence of the local Chinese takeaway (apparently the lady will deliver on foot pushing her little one in the buggy if you are close to the shop)
  • The possibility that the local lap dancing club may be closed down because of all the crime that is associated with its clientele and staff
  • Foreign holidays we’d been on (or not)… and taking them in term time
  • How many times we’d been arrested (three between us, I think, but no convictions as far as I gathered)
  • Starting up your own business
  • The local prostitution trade and the club with an upstairs room used for those purposes
  • What had made us cry recently (for some a programme on Baby P, for me a report on primary schools that succeed in challenging areas)

That’s what I love so much about living here. You talk about unexpected things and all your preconceptions are challenged. I love my coffee, cake and chat friends and am so grateful for the fun we have together and for all that I learn from them.

What are your coffee mornings like?

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When vicars (or their wives) are chatting about the joys and challenges of parish life, there’s a sort of shorthand to describe the less spiritual aspects of church leadership that church leaders usually have to get involved in: ‘drains’, and sometimes ‘guttering’.

I remember chatting with Chickenfan, who was speaking at a Clergy Wives conference I was on. He’d resigned from parish ministry to concentrate on speaking and teaching the bible. ‘It’s a great relief not to have to worry about the drains’, he said.

How sermon prep time is drained away

How sermon prep time is drained away

Well, this weekend the Vicar had his first experience of drains. We were hanging about in the church hall at the end of the monthly church coffee morning, just getting ready to leave. The church itself was being used by another congregation for a big meeting, so the building was quite busy.

An elderly lady form the other church caught me and told me that one of the ladies’ toilets was blocked, so I went to have a look. Having worked as a sewage engineer and everything, I wasn’t afraid.

It was indeed blocked, although there was no obvious cause. At the same time, Westie (a church member) mentioned to the Vicar that there was a bit of a leak in the church hall kitchen. As the Vicar and Westie started mopping up it became obvious that the leak was from the dreaded drains and was linked to the blocked loo. Yuck.

So the Vicar and wife, ably aided by Westie, leapt to the rescue. Leaving the men to the dirty mopping, I went back to the Vicarage and called the cavalry (the churchwarden) who advised sending for the specialists. I picked a number from the Yellow Pages and was promised a visit within an hour or so.

When I returned to the hall, the toilets had been declared out of bounds (not ideal when there are a couple of hundred people in the building). But at least the leak had stopped. The Vicar got busy bleaching the kitchen sinks, after he and Westie had scrubbed the floor with Flash.

The warden returned to supervise the drain specialists who cleared the blockage with rods. The Vicar was also in attendance, so is now up to speed on the drain layout of the church. There was talk of obtaining a set of drain rods for the church to save further call outs.

Problem solved, and a couple of sermon prep hours down the drain. Time management is tricky as a vicar.

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