A Priest One Sunday

An Anglican priest faces much confusion even on his Sunday duties, and even those things he does to observe how others get on. Reverend Jim Jones, neither the cult leader nor the bishop, was about to take his morning service. Before he could, a man approached.
        "Do you know my son has joined your Christian faith. I am Jewish, I wanted him to be faithful to his family and his religion. What do you say about that?"
        Reverend Jim Jones thought about this for a moment and recalled a Bill Clinton phrase and an answer. "God feels your pain," he said, "because God has shared your experience."
        With that man gone, angry, his son left in the congregation, the priest approached the beginning of his service.

He told them he had deliberately chosen no hymns, because they were having an early and separate collection towards the restoration of the steeple, and whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.
        He went around himself with the plate, and it certainly put some people on the spot. He didn't care; they should contribute.
        A woman he'd not seen before, dressed hardly for a Sunday morning, opened her gold handbag and placed a £50 note on the tray. No one had matched and was going to match such a contribution.
        When done he stood at the front with nevertheless a healthy collection for the steeple. "And now, that lady there, and someone new to us today, our biggest contributor by far, can you select your three hymns?"
        "Yes", she said, "Him there, him there and you."
        Everyone started laughing, but the woman became too embarassed, and went directly to the door, opened it and left. Reverend Jones realised he had to follow her, a new person too; walking rapidly on her high heels, he caught her up, and, seeing her distressed at being laughed at, calmed her and returned her money. She went away.
        He chose the hymns and after the first one the Sunday School left the church.
        He got to the part of the service where the healing ministry would take place. The organ played and just two people came to kneel by the rail. He laid hands upon the first.
        "Lord," let this man with his arthritis walk more in your way."
        Then he laid hands on a woman going deaf, "Lord, let her hear your words with clarity."
        See, he chose his words because he didn't really believe in it. But he did think he could bring comfort, and knew of the man in the congregation whose industrial injury had left him with needing walking sticks. So he walked over to his pew.
        "No thanks vicar, I don't want to lose me disability."

To try and beat the cynicism of the occasion he decided to go directly to the less complicated children whose Sunday School activities would be coming to an end. He got there as parents were gathering and who stood at the doorway to watch the encounter.
        He asked a child, "How do you think you will get into Heaven?"
        He answered, "When I die I'll run in and out, banging the door, and then, like mum does, they'll say, 'For Heaven's sake, either come in or stay out!'"
        "Yes," said Rev. Jones, "that is one way to get in I suppose."
        Some waiting parents chuckled and one had her mouth open. He decided that it was time to say a closing prayer and asked the Sunday School teacher Mary if the children ever take prayers, for a change.
        "Not very often," she admitted.
        "Well I like the idea that they might try to pray," he said, regaining some command of the situation. Who prays at home?"
        Some hands went up.
        The teacher said, looking at someone sharper than others, "Caroline might like to pray. Pray for all the people here."
        "Miss, what do I say?"
        "Well, like when you have people round, Caroline, there are other people there like there are other people here now. You pray for everyone else."
        "Yes it is difficult," said the again getting concerned priest.
        "I'm sure she can do a little prayer," said the Sunday School teacher. "I know your mummy prays so say what your mummy might say."
        The girl put her hands together. "Dear God, why the hell do we have these people here? Amen."
        The woman in question at the door put her head in her hands.

Reverend Jones decided it was best to leave, and realising the state of things around him, and his own doubts about what it was all about, went to his neighbouring rectory and had rather too many quick successive drinks. One problem was an unexpected visit from a congregant where Jim Jones asked, "Do you want vodka or wine?"
        The member replied, "Vodka, wine and beer." And Jim Jones was almost obliged to join in.
        Then he remembered that he had an appointment across town, to see a woman unable to attend, and thought that instead of opening another bottle he'd take it to her. And so decided to risk driving, on this Sunday.
        Unfortunately at a junction he stopped too quickly for a car behind, which hit his bumper and that car came off the worse, with hot water draining out of the radiator grille.
        "Why does God punish the innocent?" asked the lady driver.
        "I'm very sorry," he said, and added that he'd exchange details. She went on that if he was as decent as his dog collar implies he would stay and wait while the police came to talk about the damage. She didn't let on she'd smelt his breath. He of course wanted to go, but realised he'd have to explain himself and wondered how he could deal with this bad situation.
        PC Jack, when he arrived, also caught his breath, which seemed rather too much for communion, and asked "Have you been drinking, Sir?"
        "It was water when I drank it," said Reverend Jones, very desperately.
        "I don't think they'd accept that defence in court," said PC Jack.
After his visit to the police station, and ringing the unvisited member of the congregation, Rev. Jones took a taxi but in an increasingly agitated state asked to be dropped off by the river with a bridge across. He needed to stand, and look, and think, but a little boy approached him pointing towards a dead bird on the river bank.
        "Did it go to Heaven?" the boy asked.
        "Yes," said Reverend Jones. "Animals go to heaven too."
        "Then why did God chuck it back again?" The boy asked.
        At which point Reverend Jones took himself up on to the bridge, climbed over the fence and jumped into the water. It came up to his knees.