Being something of an early riser the bishop, dressed and ready to start the day, knocked on the bedroom door of Alan Peart to tell him to get up and prepare for morning devotions.
The bishop was already downstairs when Alan Peart came into the kitchen. "Just a glass of milk first," said the bishop, and both having downed these he led his priest into the lounge where the bishop had two prayer books and Bible already open, and the bishop took the lead in the devotions. The bishop read from 1 Corinthians 3 (New King James Version):
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
"Jealousy and strife, and carnality," said the bishop, "sort of wrap together here, don't they, and if we go to Galatians 5..."
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
"So for my little homily I want to talk about good behaviour, especially demanded of our ministers of religion. Now first of all, jealousy itself. We have discussed before how you might feel that I was in the same theological college as you, at the same time, doing the same course, and now I am bishop and you are not. And what is more, I am your bishop. Now your wife Julia does not live with you except maybe on some weekdays?"
"The nearest point of our parishes is 39 miles away; the vicarages are further."
"I'd say I don't like this. I would never have approved. I have not visited her yet."
At this point the front door was heard opening and shutting and then the sound of footsteps.
"Goodness me,"said the bishop, "have we an intruder?"
It was Mrs Janice Capron, 31, and she opened the lounge door and came to a dead stop herself.
"Did you leave the door unlocked last night?" Bishop Neville asked.
"No no, it's alright," said the priest.
"I have a key," she said.
"You have a key?" asked the bishop. "Why does this lady have a key?"
She answered for herself: "I look after the chickens."
"The chickens, I saw yesterday, are outside madam. Who are you? What is your name?"
"I'm Janice Capron. The feed is in the garage. The only way I get to the garage is from inside."
"And when you have fed the chickens, do you leave? And you keep the key on your person."
"I check to see if his chickens are well, and if his cock is fine - especially after it went AWOL."
"His cock went AWOL?"
"His cock and its master think alike: he came out of the vestry and went in the church the other day."
"Both of them, I presume. And then when you have checked them all, and none have gone absent without leave, then what?"
"I might wash up, do some vacuuming: housework."
"For which you are paid."
"I, er, get a payment," she said, looking across to the Reverend Peart.
"And what do you get?" asked the bishop.
"Can I say it is private?"
"No you cannot. The priest here is my representative. He is here because I am not."
"What, you were going to be here?" she asked.
"No, it is something ecclesiastical. He represents me."
"We haven't decided the pay yet," said Reverend Peart.
"I've only just started looking after them," said she.
"Well you'd better do so," said the bishop. "For now."
And she went away and through a door that led to the garage (with a car in it), and used a door to go from the garage into the garden - where she was next seen.
"Now goodness me, if that's not temptation," said the bishop, "for which there can only be jealousy and bad outcomes. Being jealous means not being satisfied with what God has given us and I think we should pray. We lead sacrificial lives, remember."
"Just a minute," said Reverend Peart. "Before you go on. What is all this, this morning?"
"What is all what?"
"This piety, Nev. You and I were never like this when we left theological college. You'd virtually lost your faith. Last time I talked to you as a vicar, you were doing the motions and don't tell me otherwise. And, for that matter, you mention Julia - she, you might remember, was the most stable of the four of us in theological college. You were the one who didn't do the decent thing for her and Sue. I was the one who married her, because I had the sacrificial values that you are now supposed to be preaching and preaching at me!"
"I think you are walking on very dangerous territory. Just remember: you are a priest-in-charge and there's no freehold here. But, er, just look at this situation. A member of your congregation comes in and finds us at our devotions. That is very important."
"You didn't know she was coming in. What's more, she is not a member of the congregation."
"Now that I did not know. But I was talking with your people yesterday, wasn't I? And what if I had not asked you to rise and be ready? That's strange isn't it. Where would you have been, when temptation arrived this morning? You see, evening meetings, up for a later working day, but this woman arrives early."
"The chickens need letting out of the hutch."
"Such a wonderful motivation, chickens."
With that, Janice Capron reappeared.
"Miss Capron," said the bishop.
"I'm Mrs Capron," said Janice; "Introduce yourself please."
The vicar spoke instead: "This is indeed Mrs Janice Capron, a daughter of two regular attenders in the congregation, and so, Mrs Capron, this is Bishop Neville Timothy Williams, the bishop for this diocese and my boss."
"I'll be going now," said Janice. "Unless you've got some washing or something."
"I'm talking to your vicar about the job you do," said the bishop.
"We'll talk about a payment for everything later, Janice," said the vicar, "but nothing now. We'll probably see your children at school this afternoon."
The bishop said, "Breakfast and a walk around town first."
"I'll make breakfast, if you like," said Janice. "Or, I tell you what, why not have breakfast at my mum and dad's. They attend lots of your things and are full of the talk of the town. They're babysitting my youngest - they love to look after the kids - so they are in. I can then do their shopping and see you all later."
The bishop said, "Very good idea."
"I'll ring them on my mobile. By the way, don't worry about the dog - he's a big softy. You two set off and they'll be ready when you arrive."
As the door opened, Mr Peter Ward, 70, was telling the dog, "Go lie down, go lie down."
In went the bishop and the vicar. Reverend Alan Peart said, "I don't believe I've been here for a meal yet, so this is very welcome."
They were taken to the kitchen, at the back of the house.
Mrs Janet Ward, 62, was sat feeding the baby with a bottle of milk, and Mr Peter Ward, having let them in, went across to take over that role as Mrs Ward approached the cooker.
"Very good to meet you all," said the Right Reverend N. T. Williams.
"Would you like a hearty breakfast?" asked Janet Ward. "My daughter Janice says the vicar loves his eggs and bacon. So would it be fruit juice to start? We do have cereals."
The priest meanwhile went over to Mr Ward. "This is Richard," said Mr Ward. "He is a year old. We can't decide whether he looks like his mum or his dad. He even looks a bit like you!"
"Fruit juice would be very good and I will eat as your priest eats," said the bishop to Mrs Ward.
So, the two guests at the table, the frying pan started to sizzle, but they were confronted with rather dirty looking glasses and dirty looking plates put in front of them, with seemingly a film of grease across the plates.
The bishop leaned across and whispered, "This is one of the trials of being a priest - entering dirty homes, putting up with dirty crockery, that sort of thing."
Alan Peart thought, surely, he could speak directly to these leading congregants of his. "Excuse me, but if I may say the glass is a little dirty?"
"I'll try another," said Mrs Ward. It was extraordinary to hear her then say that it's the best that cold water can do to clean them.
"And the plate. Can you look at both of the plates, please - and... and the other glass?" asked the Reverend.
The bishop whispered to him, "Some things you have to put up with. Don't include me."
But, again, it was the best that cold water could do. The two in holy orders looked at each other. So the bishop then asked, "Do you have a problem with the hot water? Is there any way we can help?"
At this point the front door burst open and the dog ran out to the door, distracting everyone. "Shit," Janice Capron said loudly, coming through, with the dog in front of her going backwards and trying to jump up. "You won't have washed up. Goldwater, go off, go lie down! Go on you daft dog."
Janice came straight into the kitchen; looked and paused. "Oh, you haven't started yet." She then took the plates off the table and put them in the sink, and then picked up the glasses and did the same. She turned on the hot water tap and waited for the combi-boiler to heat the water before washing these pots.
Mrs Ward said, "Janice you're wasting water and it comes on our meter."
"I told you before," said Janice, "when it comes to having guests: wash up. I've only been in one shop and I've got you some more washing up liquid."
The two clerics were later visiting the Church primary school and it was back to starting at Miss MacIntosh's class, the one that included Janice Capron's 7 years old daughter, Jenny Capron, among nineteen others.
Miss MacIntosh introduced some of the children to the bishop. "This is Penny, whose dad is a wealthy businessman."
"Hello Penny." The bishop shook Penny's delicate hand.
"This is Ruby, whose mum works in the jewellers. This is Lily, and her sister Daisy, whose dad works in the garden centre. Here is Madison, and her father came from New York in America. Ben - his family goes in for lots of hill walking. Krishnan from our Hindu family and Mohammad is from a Muslim family. Archie's dad is a skilled stonemason. Dylan's dad teaches English in the secondary school. Oscar's mother loves films. Jack's dad is an odd job man. And here is Jenny, who is Janice Capron's daughter."
"Does Jenny's mother spin wool?" asked the bishop.
"It's a female ass, isn't it? Or the name means something like white wave, sort of crashing water. Or pure white. Nice name, Jenny," said the teacher.
"She was conceived in Cornwall," said the Reverend. "It is a Cornish name."
"Oh," said Miss MacIntosh. "Cornwall. And her older brother is William, you might meet him, and the newest is Richard."
"I've met Richard. We had our breakfast at Mr and Mrs Ward's house. And very delicious it was," said Bishop Neville.
"You ate at the Wards' - with Goldwater the dog?" asked Mrs MacIntosh. "You know we don't have a doctor's surgery any more. There is only the vet and the dentist - Eugene Capron himself."
"Everything was very good," said the bishop.
The bishop continued his visit around the school, and his parish visitation more generally, assisted by his priest.
Keep it up. I love the ongoing tale. Plus I am deciphering the UK usage of English. It is a bit different.
There are several possible next directions. I'm just preparing other materials at present but my brain does come up with bizarre possibilities at times, usually when I am sleepy, and then I'll take the story on. Then there are the recycled jokes to put in.
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