The poet John Betjeman once averred~
As indeed you may have already heard~
That: ‘it gets things over quicker~
To blame the vicar’;
Well, we haven’t a flicker ~
Of a vicar~
But at least~
We do have a priest~
And just the same~
He’s the one who takes the blame.
That censure takes numerous forms,
Especially if he deviates from the norms;
He’s damned with faint praise~
Or some unflattering phrase~
Or he remains unmentioned~
By the more well-intentioned;
But by the guardians of hierarchy
The armed-guards of ecclesial squire-archy~
He’s marked as a fail~
His notions of change – quite beyond the pale.
Though it’s reluctantly conceded~
That the parish debts have greatly receded~
And ‘bums in pews’ have also increased~
(In numbers!) Well doubled at least;
The car parks are full~
The masses not dull;
He’s ‘grand with the old~
Or so we’re told’~
And attracts the youth~
If anyone allows the truth~
Yet he’s been here two years~
Confirming the die-hards’ fears~
And if you want to hear the fuss~
Well it’s thus:
‘Keep it the same~
Oh that’s the game~
Yet he’s altered the mass-times~
At the stoke of a pen~
Were always each morning at ten;
Yet two are now in the evenings~
With but three in the mornings;
He’s broken a changeless routine~
For morning masses - have always been;
And now indeed we suffer girl servers~
Oh dear God - please preserve us!
Then rumours fly he’s leaving;
We think he’s under-achieving~
And he’s doing a counselling course~
By choice –not by force~
So –he must be quitting~
Going on his way and flitting;
Oh he’ll soon be away~
You’ll see –any day!
Then he doesn’t preach about hell,
Pile on the guilt that we know so well;
Even gives sinners encouragement~
Oh when indeed will he relent?
For how can we preserve ~
That we indubitably deserve~
Over others’ inherent inferiority?
Then look at the way he dresses;
Oh where are his trouser presses?
For he doesn’t much wear clerical clothes,
Nor the priestly collar or dress~
Which we’d hazard a guess~
He probably loathes.
Though it’s grudgingly conceded he’s no mess~
When he actually says the mass;
And blow-ins flock from all and asunder;
For in his voice~
There isn’t a trace~
Of much-expected animosity or thunder.
He chats and laughs with ordinary folk;
Oh it’s certainly some joke;
Where’s his priestly decorum and pride?
Oh how our changeless world has died!
Yet we’ll not fudge nor ever budge~
For in certain truth - God’s our judge;
His friendly, popular homilies will hardly pass~
Oh bring back the Tridentine Mass!
He even preaches a gospel of love~
But surely should be above~
All this reaching out~
And even permitting an element of doubt~
For he must preach the Ten Commandments,
With absolutely no amendments;
That’s the changeless rock~
Which Moses struck~
How our faith must always be!’
Ah yes it’s certainly quicker~
To blame the vicar;
Or in our case – at least - the priest~
Whether we’ve a famine or we’ve a feast.
Yet I can’t help wondering~
Or long, long pondering,
With a nagging and growing fear:
How long indeed - will this church be here?
Or as J.B. indicated~
How long - before we’re also amalgamated~
With the others around that we’ve frequently slated?
Quote ‘It gets things over quicker – to blame the vicar’ taken from one of John Betjeman’s satirical poems broadcast in 1955 from ‘Poems from the Porch’. Also the last two lines of this poem are an adaptation of the final two lines of the same poem-‘The Parish now is amalgamated – with the one next door that they’ve always hated’.