Francis Gardom continues his gentle look at sinners

We have been looking at the good folk of an imaginary urban parish, St Grizelda’s. We have discovered, surprisingly, that those same virtues which their fellow-worshippers greatly admire can become, unwittingly, their euperistatos shortcoming – their ‘sin which is admired by many’.

Let me introduce the churchwardens, Mr Blunt and Mr Sharp. Both have given long and faithful service to St Grizelda’s – there’s no question about that.

As the Bishop said only the other day, it would be ‘hard to imagine St Grizelda’s without them’. Though kindly meant, it led some of those present to wonder if he was hinting that it might be prudent if someone new started ‘learning the ropes’ about churchwardening.

But that’s the problem. Long, faithful service is admirable; but can become possessive. Vicars come and vicars go, but laity go on for ever. Sharp and Blunt are dedicated to safeguarding St Grizelda’s to be ‘just as it’s always been. No wonder they are re-elected as churchwardens every year without contest!

Safeguarding is admirable – up to a point. But Mr Sharp was recently overheard saying, ‘We’ll soon knock some of that new-fangled nonsense out of Father Green – him and his bright ideas! We at St Grizzle’s have never done anything like he’s suggested – and we’re not starting now!’

Sharp and Blunt are good wardens. But like their counterparts in hospitals and schools (or monasteries!), they need helping to understand that some things should be changed, for everyone’s good.

Yes, they should safeguard the interests of St Grizelda’s, but those interests are not well served by saying ‘No!’ instinctively to any suggestion Father Green makes at the PCC.

Wasn’t it Fr Green who suggested organizing a rota of those with cars to bring elderly and disabled people to Mass from the new council estate which lacks a bus service? Look at the difference that made to numbers at St Grizelda’s!

In some cases, their children and grandchildren now come with them – people who have never darkened the doors of a church in their life.

Conserving the status quo is sometimes right; innovation is sometimes wrong. But to be wedded emotionally to either is to be in danger of committing the sin that is admired by many’!