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4 Green clergymen hanging on a wall...

by vigournet 

Posted: 29 August 2012
Word Count: 2045
Summary: Havoc at church as a new minister is selected.

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Four green clergy, hanging on a wall...four green clergy hanging on a wall....

"Being without a pastor is a real pain", Peter said to the Church Board.

"It probably costs us as much to pay visiting speakers at every service, as it would to pay a Minister. I don't know about you guys, but I am run ragged, trying to do all the calls".

Stroking his hair with his hand, and wiping his brow, he made notes on an A4 pad.

"Pete is right", Marty said, "old Mrs Harris is in hospital again, and her family are saying she hasn't had a visit."

"We can't do everything", Tom said. "Anyway, she was visited last time. Why don't her family get off their arses (pardon my French), and do something?" He looked at the other two to gauge their response.

"I'd like us to vote on applying to The District for a list of potential pastors" leaning back in a plastic chair, Peter said, taking a note of his suggestion in the Minutes.

"I'll go along with that," Tom said," just as long as we can invite some who are leading churches. We don't want someone like last time: retired and looking for a hand-out." Tom stroked his greying beard.

"Are we all in favour then?" Peter said. "Marty are you on board?" The other two nodded and Peter took down an official note. The meeting had only taken twenty minutes. He thought, "I can be home to watch Eastenders."

Arriving home just before eight, Peter checked phone messages on his answering machine, and sat down in a recliner settee in the lounge and switched on the TV. Hearing him come in, his wife called from upstairs.

"That you, Pete?"

Thinking to himself, "well if I'm "the mad-axe man", I'm not gonna say, am I?"
"Yes, sweetheart, it's me," he called back, cupping his mouth with his hands, to be heard over the TV.

He heard Megan treading down the stairs gently, and opening the lounge door. Seeing her pregnant form he felt a glow inside. She kissed him on the cheek, sitting down beside him with a bump. Taking his A4 notepad he showed her the minutes of the meeting.

"Susan sleeping?" he asked.

"Hope so, by now," Megan said, yawning.

Between the soaps Peter outlined his plan, to call The District, and schedule prospects into the church calendar.

"Sounds good, babe" Megan said, yawning again and thumping him on the arm, " ... I'm knackered ... Gonna hit the sack."

Opening a kitchen drawer, Peter pulled out a blue-covered book with "Church Directory" embossed in gold letters. Scanning the pages he wrote numbers on a pad. He thought: "I'll also call John; he may know someone who is looking for a church."

At the next monthly Deacons' meeting Peter placed papers in front of the other Board members. Marty picked up the paper like it was paper-thin and sprinkled with gold-dust. Tom drew happy or sad faces alongside the names and phone numbers, his tongue in his cheek.

"The District Superintendent has suggested four names, two without churches, two incumbent. Next to the name there is a brief Bio, "Peter explained. "Unless there are any objections", Peter continued," I'd like to call these guys, and arrange a few preaching Sundays. I suggest we schedule over four months, one a month, and use our monthly Visitor's Sunday, so the folk can get to know them over tea and biscuits."

"Sounds cool," Marty said. The newest member of the Church Board shuffled in his chair. At first he had been uncomfortable with Tom, who seemed crude and abrupt, but Marty had grown to respect him.

"I may be lambing, but I'll make it when I can," Tom said, dusting hay off his jeans. "Won't Megan be dropping hers in May as well?" The farmer sat back, relaxed with his two friends.

"We can work around all our commitments," Peter said, giving Tom a wink. "I'll make the contact and we can announce on Sunday what we're doing." Making a note in his Filofax, he looked at the nodding heads.

The first prospect preached well at the Morning Service. Staying with Marty's mum for dinner, he seemed at home tucking into Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding. Dishing out a Lemon Cheesecake Dessert, Marty's mum beamed with exuberance. Her husband, not a church attender, refrained from burping or farting at the table, and had kept to the promised limit of two pints at his local.

The Visitor's service was average, according to The Harris family, who made their views known over refreshments. Showing discontent that the plates only contained biscuits, they made a bee-line for Megan. After a heated exchange, witnessed by the visiting speaker, it was apparent he was not impressed when Tom approached the Harris cartel, intervening with: "Piss off ... Bring your own food next time."

Peter entered the next Board meeting sheepishly, placing a letter on the table, from the candidate.

"Dear Sirs,

Having thought seriously about your vacancy, I have decided to decline. In fact, I have removed my name from the Prospects List, my current congregation, whilst not as large as yours, are quite a content group.

I wish you all the best in your search.

Yours, etc.

"Cheeky bugger," Tom said. " ... I bet they've offered him more money."

"Mum liked him," Marty said, " ... not sure dad did."

"Aye, next time let your dad take them to the Swan," Tom suggested. He left the room singing: "Four green clergy, hanging on a wall...four green clergy, hanging on a wall...."

The second prospect was a total disaster. Hands shaking at the Communion table, he had popped to the loo, and left his trouser fly undone. Mavis, the Organist had noticed, blushingly pointing to his zip, making coughing noises. The poor man quickly turned his back, zipped up his fly, but when he turned to face the church, he had inadvertently zipped up the communion cloth too.

The white cloth was tugged, hanging from his fly like a bride's veil - dragging around the floor, its contents falling - Communion glasses spilling on the floor, - the metal dishes with bread loaves careering up the aisle. There was pandemonium and havoc in the church.

Mavis chuckled at the Organ, holding her hand to her mouth, trying desperately to gain control, but unable to read the music, tears in her eyes. Her cheeks reddening, looking as though she would wet herself, she gave up playing. Tom laughed so loud he started everyone, until the whole congregation roared. The preacher tried his best with his sermon, but by then the church was too engrossed in frivolity. At the end of the service Peter approached him, shook his hand, and took him for a quiet word in the vestry.

As the guest drove away, Peter was announcing that it was decided they should hold an informal service that evening with no speaker. People shared their own stories, some youngsters sang, and the church had the best time ever! Over coffee Pete had suggested that, because Tom was busy lambing, and Marty was away with his IT job, they meet after the next speaker, the following month.

The third visiting preacher was not pastoring when the dates were arranged, but he had mentioned over the phone that he had a number of invitations. Peter placed the phone down strongly, and told Megan the outcome.

"He must think he's God's gift," Peter said," - He wants us to make a quick decision."

"That doesn't sound right to me," Megan replied: " ... Does he really want to come here or not?"

The third guest speaker was a fifty year old, immaculately dressed in a dark blue suit, crisp-white shirt and striped tie. In his breast pocket he had a handkerchief, which he used profusely in his messages, wiping his brow, as he preached up a storm. His sermons were superbly crafted, alliterated and complete with illustrations. His messages, appearing to delight the Harris family, were so deep it was difficult to grasp the point.

Whilst he moved smoothly, greeting members of the congregation, his eyes went to and fro, when he talked with anyone. Peter watched with some dread, and also some happiness, when Tom sat next to the man. The man stood up after a heated exchange, banging his coffee down. Peter walked over to Tom, the guest speaker making his way to the vestry for his case.

"What on earth did you say to him, Tom?" Peter inquired, half smiling.

"I told that wind-bag I'd read that sermon in Spurgeon's sermons, and even heard a Baptist preach it," Tom said. "The man is a fake; a performer, not the kind we need here." Marty and his mum joined the twosome, both affirming that they didn't trust the man.

"Okay, that's it then," Peter said, " ... Three down, one to go!"

Late on Sunday evening, the phone rang; Peter pulled his dressing-gown chord and said, "Hello,John".

He called Megan, who ambled into the hall-way. "You will never believe it. - He has run off with his Organist."

"Who has?" Megan said, rubbing her eyes and stretching her back, feeling the weight of her baby inside her.

"The guy who has just preached, you ninny," Peter said with an air of smugness, bursting to tell Tom and Marty.

"He gave me the creeps," Megan said, easing herself up the stairs.

Within a week Megan went into labour, and the couple rejoiced in the birth of a healthy baby girl.

"I'll be outnumbered now," Peter said, "with you, Susan and another female." As he looked into the cot, the infant cried, backing up his fears. "She looks a lot like your mum".

The final guest speaker was a young man, freshly graduated. During the morning service the whole Harris family stormed out, slamming the door. The preacher shrugged his shoulders at Peter.

Tom called out, "Carry on mate, ... carry on, ... we're better without them bu...bu..buzzards," he stuttered.

The church breathed a sigh of relief that Tom has suppressed his profanity. In one prayer meeting he had prayed aloud,"Lord give us the milk of your Word; we're tired of drinking at the Runt tit." One family stormed out and never came back, offended at what they regarded as "coarse language". Peter smiled, thinking "maybe he should have said teat?"

Over washing up the dinner dishes with Marty and his mother, the visitor asked if he could walk around the town. Surprised, they agreed, and went with him. Marty knocked his mother on the shoulder, as the young preacher sat on a bench next to some skin-headed youngsters. They engaged in discussion for some time, followed by the preacher bowing his head and praying with them. Marty and his mum held their hands to their mouths. In Marty's house the preacher talked on the settee with Marty's dad, who nodded and laughed.

At the evening Guest service, three young people, new to the church, sat on the front row, their red and blue spiked hair causing whispers. The preacher welcomed them, and announced that anyone could stay afterwards for coffee. Taking a puppet from his brief case, the children, called to the front, were told a story. Parents, even Marty's dad, clapped at the end.

Holding the new-born in his arms, he and Megan deep in conversation, Peter, Tom and Marty joined them.

"We would like you to become our Pastor," the Board said.

"Thank you very much," the young man said. " - Does it matter that I'm having a sex-change?"

The Board choked and spluttered, looking at each other, and at him and Megan.

He and Megan roared with laughter," only joking," he said, " ... But we must be open to all. - Equality and diversity must apply to any church I lead.

"The bugger," said Tom, " ... I like him."

Three months later at a baptismal service, the new minister plunged ten new members into the water. Filling six water-pistols, and handing them to several children, he invited a cowboy shoot-out. There was havoc in the church, for the second time, as people got soaked, but it was great fun.

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Comments by other Members

lang-lad at 21:41 on 29 August 2012  Report this post
You start a lot of sentences with a present participle. I found them a bit of a stumbling block to enjoying the story, and not always easy to follow: "Holding the new-born in his arms, he and Megan deep in conversation, Peter, Tom and Marty joined them." That's a dense sentence. Can't work out who the subject of the sentence is. It's not Peter but for a moment it could be, then we see it's 'he' but 'he' doesn't do anything so starting with 'Holding' isn't resolved. Am I making sense?

It's a promising story but I'm not sure what to say about it. The structure is a bit linear so it relates a sequence of events towards an apparently happy resolution. Maybe the next reader will offer something more insightful. Sorry if I've been a bit vague and all I've really said is watch those verb ending. Not hugely helpful I fear.
Best wishes for the next draft.

Becca at 08:30 on 30 August 2012  Report this post
Hi Peter,
this story seemed to be about everything that is mentioned in it, rather than about one thing. It's a bit difficult to explain what I mean any more clearly than that. Everything in the story seems to be as important as everything else, so that leaves me as reader not being sure what the story is actually about. As a consequence of that the story has no 'landscape.'
I don't think the pregnancy or the baby adds anything to the story, but then what exactly is the story? There are little conflicts throughout, but a short story essentially is a conflict of some kind, and I can't see that here.

In my opinion the point at which the story just about begins to get interesting is when the third speaker arrives. I was hoping you'd stick with that character and develop the story around him, and in which case, I would've suggested starting there and getting rid of the first half entirely which, if it tells the reader anything, it would be that there are some nice people in a village. But you can do that in one or two sentences. You could also write about what they were trying to do in a few sentences.

Sorry to be a bit repetitive here, but the part which could have become a story is the third preacher running off with the organist. There you have a character you could develop fully and give a motive to, and in a story with that subject matter you'd be able to introduce dramatic tension which is essential in a story and isn't present here.

euclid at 20:27 on 31 August 2012  Report this post

First off, was this double-entendre intended or not?

Mavis chuckled at the Organ

If you meant Mavis was sitting at the organ, you'd need to rephrase.

I gather the story is intended as a humorous one. It certainly gets funnier towards the end, sort of like a long joke.

Most experts say 3 is the best number, btw. 2 is not enough, 4 is too many.

I'm a mathematician, and to me the story read a bit like one of those mathematical puzzles where you have to work out how many people there are and what their jobs are. We have Pete (or Peter) Tom and Marty and some clues about them (Tom has a greying beard).

Later, we discover that Tom is a sheep farmer and Marty has an IT job.

I'd have to agree with Becca, it lacks focus.

Good luck with it.


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