Bits and pieces, Christmas 2009
To lose one vicar is unfortunate, to lose two is… well, you can insert your own word in there but that’s what the Minster is doing. Yes, it has been formally confirmed that next year our Associate Vicar, Nick Drayson, is leaving the comfort of Beverley for the wilds of the jungle.
“I’m not a celebrity, let me in,” appears to be Nick’s favourite programme although, in his own way, he will rise to notability – he’s becoming a bishop: to be precise, the Suffragan Bishop of North Argentina.
Several points here – firstly ‘suffragan’ – that means he’s not the top bishop in the particular diocese but he’s assistant to the Numero Uno. The word itself comes from the same Latin root as ‘suffragette’ so, technically, it’s to do with voting, i.e. voting with and supporting the Diocesan Bishop.
As to the details of a suffragan bishop’s job, well, that varies with each individual bishop but it’s safe to say that this won’t be a simple life sitting around dressed in purple in a splendid palace. No, Nick’s new diocese covers a huge amount of jungle containing various threatened native tribes, as well as large numbers of urban poor – and when you’re talking urban poor in South America you’re talking real starvation levels; drinking filthy water, scavenging for food in rubbish tips, the true bottom of the heap.
So, best wishes for when he and Katherine swap their comfortable home in Molescroft sometime during summer next year for the heat, humidity and dust of the near-tropics.
On a more immediate note, we are now in the season of staging. To put that in virgers’ terms, half our time seems to consist of assembling different configurations of our sectional stage for the next annual concert or festive service in the Minster, while the other half is spent dismantling it again so that the normal routine of church services can go ahead. It just wouldn’t be done to have the elder members of our congregation scrambling up the latest hillock then abseiling down the other side before Thursday communion – many of them only just arrive in time in the normal course of events.
Anyway, we also need to get the altar back in place.
Most people don’t realise that the round altar in front of the organ screen is movable, but at this time of year it’s pushed around the floor like John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing. We pull up the communion rails that normally box it in then, after just a few minutes work with a large car jack and eight metal rods, the whole structure is on wheels and ready to be shoved (with all due reverence of course) towards a quiet part of the building.
It’s not particularly manoeuvrable, more like a supertanker than a nippy runabout, but John and I are used to it so we haven’t knocked down any major pillars recently. Getting it back into place requires a bit more precision as the microphone system has to be plugged into the floor, but it’s not rocket science.
When that’s done then we move on to the chairs, which also have to be changed for each concert. For some we can just place extra seats with their backs to the wall – one row or two depending on expected numbers. For others we lay them diagonally to improve the view towards the front while, for the annual County Choir concert we actually turn all the pews in the church to face the back. Then, immediately after the concert they have to be turned round again for the Sunday services.
This Monday we also lifted our two Christmas trees into place. Normally we order two 26 foot monsters that we strap to the screen in front of the organ. These towered above the keyboard area but this year, as it will be the last our long-serving director of music Alan Spedding will serve, we thought we’d let him see what goes on below.
So the trees are only 20 foot tall and much lighter than normal – by adopting a ‘tossing the caber’ stance even I was able to lift and shift them to get them in the correct position. I tell you, my muscles haven’t felt as good as this for a long time – I shouldn’t have any problems ripping the wrapping from my Christmas presents this year.