This is the first of a ‘look at life’ series of short stories. If any character resembles a known person, it is purely coincidental.
CONFLICT in the vestry
“The Dilston Catholic Church needs a new bell,” Paul stated, in his usual gentle voice. “We have that old one in the cellar, I suggested to Father Pat that we gave it to them… we don’t need it. And we are trying to get our churches working together.”
While I smiled in approval, Prudence Grype, the pillar of the church for the last thirty years, snapped:
“What! Over my dead body. You have no right to give that bell away… It was given to us by Major Grimston.”
The Reverend Paul Witless, only installed in our pleasant country church six months previously, was taken aback. Clearly he did not know Mrs Grype like the rest of us did. That church, its contents and traditions were far more important to her than anything else.
“But it’s doing nothing… just sitting in the cellar gathering dust,” spluttered Paul. “Surely it’s better to put it to good use.”
“Huh! Start giving these things away, and no one will make gifts to our church ever again.”
“I seem to recall that bell,” butted in Henry Budge, our churchwarden since time began. (No one had ever dared to oppose him when we held the annual elections.) Major Grimston brought it back with him at the end of the last war. It had belonged to a convent in Greece. He found the bell amongst the rubble. I have an idea he donated it to us. I think it was after his wife died.”
“Purloined, likely,” muttered Bill Briggs, beneath his breath. “Then wanted to get rid of it before there was a rumpus.”
Our saintly Paul smiled confidently. “Ah, it was likely a Catholic convent, so what better than to put it to use in the belfry of a Catholic church?”
“You can’t give away our treasures,” Prudence Grype insisted. “You, vicar, have no right. You must put it to the PCC!”
I looked around at the dozen sombre faces of the members lining the walls of the vestry. They began nodding in unison. There had to be a vote.
“Very well,” sighed Paul. “Proposer please.”
“Wait a minute,” I piped up. “We have not fully discussed this matter.”
“Nothing more to discuss,” Prudence insisted. “It’s time we moved on. I propose we keep the bell. Our churchwarden will second. And remember, if we give this bell away, we’ll be cut out of our parishioners wills, and no one will give us anything again!”
A few ditherers received a stony stare. Arms stiffened upwards.
Along with the vicar, I raised my hand.
The result of the vote was noted by the secretary.
“I seem to recall our Lord saying something about not building up treasure on earth,” I always seem to find things to say when it’s too late.
“Never mind all that,” barked Budge. “We have more important things to discuss. The Church Féte takings were down on last year. And at the tea, there was not enough trifle to go round at top table. I didn’t get any!”