Thursday, 5 February 2009

Oh, give me a home...

There’s an interesting sign of the financial times in the local Anglican community at At least for those who know how to read it.
For the benefit of those who might not here's some pointers...
Back in the era of Bishop Atwell the Anglican Bishop moved out of his traditional palace, Bishopscourt, and into a more modest Douglas home. This was before my time - possibly in the early 1980’s.
At this point a quiet deal was struck between the Manx government and Richard Nixon’s old mate, George Ferguson-Lacey. Ferguson-Lacey would buy and restore Bishopscourt for the sake of the nation and in return would get planning permission to build a number of houses in the grounds, one of which would be given to the Bishop.
Only he didn’t get planning permission and thus began a long war of attrition between the Fat Man (as he’s known amongst past and present employees) and the government in the form of Manx Heritage. This has rumbled on since and also involved other places of Manx Christian heritage, such as Rushen Abbey and the Nunnery, acquired after similar 'understandings'.
The Fat Man, by the way, has been well advised throughout this war by local experts in Manx ecclesiastical law, who must be hard to find. Which probably explains why he inevitably comes out on top, and possibly in return why, until now, Manx diocesan financial planning has been more successful than the UK norm.
There was next an attempt to strike a deal with a developer to build houses on church land close to Peel Cathedral, again with the Bishop getting a new home. Again, planning permission not granted so the next two bishops stayed in Douglas.
By the way, there was a great game, known amongst devotees as 'P,P & P', played by clergy trying to drive out of the Bishop’s last home.
P,P & P stands for ‘Pump Pedal and Pray’. Just to explain, the entrance leads at such an angle onto a fast main road that it was impossible for either emerging clergy to see oncoming traffic or vice versa. Visiting their leader really WAS an act of faith, not just a job requirement.
The move to Patrick signals clearly where the finances are at though.
It used to be the rectory to a living known as ‘the four parishes’, not a plum post but definitely a full time one racing between four village churches. But as fast as they retire the local clergy pros are being replaced by ‘hobby vicars’ (unpaid folk, usually retired, who’ve done some local training), and their vicarages sold off.
If it’s got to the point where Patrick, a modest farmhouse, is being set aside for the Bish that means all the decent properties have been flogged already and the only one left is the Bish’s present abode. To make things worse, even the hobby vicars are starting to pop their clogs and no upcoming sixty-somethings to replace them.
If he does move to Patrick, also expect a trend for 4x4s amongst Manx clergy. Not exactly demonstrating that Christian stewardship over the earth trendy vicars like to witter about, is it? But there’s no other way to get to that house, and nowhere to park that isn’t knee-deep in mud. Doubt if the skills Sentamu passed on during the Bish’s apprenticeship included tractor-driving either.
Excuse the pun, but God help the poor sods in winter.
They won’t get help from anyone else.

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