I didn’t feel gracious, in fact I felt livid. Some bloke rings me in my own home then hangs up on me? But it isn’t the whole story…..It began on a too-short gap in a busy day when the study phone rang. Verbatim….
C: Good afternoon, Claire —– speaking
Man: Is that Reverend —- the Vicar?
C: No, I’m Claire, one of his curates, one of the parish priests. Can I help at all?
Man: What time is the service tomorrow at St —–?
C: It’s 1115 and tomorrow it’s erm….[quick check of rota] Holy Communion.
Man: Who is taking the service?
C: I’m presiding tomorrow, and one of our Readers is preaching.
Man: Oh. [hangs up].
It left me feeling angry, and pretty rubbish too. I stropped and muttered my way round the house and cyberspace, thinking about the Women Bishops proposals, and the whole thing about being gracious and having honoured places in the Church of England. Not a lot about that phone call felt gracious to me. But then I started to think about it from his perspective.
Here’s a chap who wants to receive Holy Communion. He knows there is a church (even referred to it by its name, not by the village it is in). He has been on the website, had a look, and seen pictures of women as well as men in the ministry team. He doesn’t accept the ministry of women. So rather than turn up at the church, see who is wearing robes, and walking out, or staying seated during distribution of the Sacrament (which he won’t think is properly consecrated) he telephones ahead. He knows that the Vicar is supportive of the priestly ministry of women (else why a female associate priest, and a female curate?). He knows that such Vicars may get impatient with a request to know who is presiding. So he rang me instead.
Sadly, he got a harassed sounding woman who just answered the questions. The conversation will have done nothing to make him feel better about his beloved Church of England being corrupted by the presence of women. But, at the distance of a couple of weeks, I reckon he deserves a thank you for his attempt to be gracious. I just wish I’d managed the same.