The Rectory
St James the Least

My dear Nephew Darren

So, your bishop is dropping hints that you should begin to consider a move to having your own parish – ‘not forever in green pastures’ comes to mind. Do not be too hasty to leave; remember that a curate can do no wrong, but a vicar can do no right.  That means that as soon as you get your own parish, you will be held accountable not only for everything that goes on inside the church, but also for the goal average of the local football team and the state of the economy. And if it rains for your first Summer Fete, you will be told reproachfully that this never used to happen when ‘the former vicar was here’.

As you begin to ponder this momentous decision, allow me to give you a few pieces of advice. It will be assumed in the parish that every new incumbent is bound to be worse than his predecessor. The greatest compliment I ever received when leaving a parish came from an elderly parishioner: “I've known six Rectors of this parish; you weren't the worst.”

Naturally the church you go to will have asked for a married man between 30 and 35 with a wife who will not have her own job but who wants to devote her entire life working for the parish - and it will be a definite advantage if she is a brilliant organist, professional caterer and fully computer literate. They will expect you to have two children, one of whom should be of primary school age, so he can attend the local Church school, where you will naturally wish to be chairman of governors and coach of the football team.

They will want you to have exceptional talents for attracting young people - but for young people who enjoy the sorts of Services that the present congregation prefer - and you should have the ability to stop a baby crying during Mattins with the briefest of glances. They will want you to bring ‘a breath of fresh air’ into parish life without changing anything. They will hope you will shun holidays, preach short sermons and be able to run a tight jumble sale.

Your CV is a little thin. If you could acquire a wife and family within the next six months, become an expert flower arranger and qualify as a football referee, chartered accountant and trained electrician and plumber, it would prove very helpful. If in addition, you learned how to service photocopiers, had a mini-bus available for church outings, were an heir to a family firm producing a single malt whisky and could provide reliable horse racing tips, your choice of parishes would be endless.

On the other hand, my advice would be to stop attending all meetings where you know the bishop may be present; out of sight, out of mind. Have your phone disconnected, your letterbox sealed and only appear in public wearing dark glasses and a false beard. Keep your head down, lay low, hold on to the charmed life of being a curate for as long as possible. Life will never be better.

Your loving uncle,

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