Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
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From Summer 2009 Issue

Episode 2
The Flock That Christendom Forgot:
Or an animal padre’s up hill pilgrimage

(The Vicar of Woodlands, Doncaster, demanded to know why I had made such a public outburst. Indeed, he affirmed, I was giving a bad name to his parish and, already, a deputation from the mothers - of whom I considered to be young thugs! - had made their feelings known on his doorstep. 'What harm is there', he demanded over the phone, 'in having air guns? My own children use them regularly!')

Indeed, I already knew that my boss and 'spiritual superior' was from farming stock; and he felt I was nothing less than a bother maker who had taken undue liberties over his head. Indeed, with the advantage of hindsight he may well have been right; but if the matter had been merely reported to him, he would have done nothing atall about it! However, the very next morning - while I was feeling utterly rejected and all wind had been taken from my sails - an upright elderly gentleman called at our home and what he narrated to us was memorable indeed.

A miner to my rescue!

This elderly gentleman who called was a newly retired pit deputy. A man who was as straight for his age as he was straight in his dealings. He would not intrude in to our privacy as he had called without an appointment; but he felt he simply had to commend me deeply, “You’ve taken such a brave public stand against cruelty’, he said, “I simply want you to know that I’m willing to stand by you with my wholehearted support”. Then he went on to narrate his own conversion to the cause of animal welfare. ‘Gentleman West’ - for that was the way some referred to him! - had one day taken a certain pit pony towards the entrance of a coal seam, which for some unknown reason it refused to enter. Try as he would the pony just wouldn’t budge a step further forward into it. Consequently, not being in the best of spirits that morning, the miner eventually punched the creature in the nose because of its obstinate defiance.

However, no sooner had he done this than did the dumb creature turn and look into the miner’s eyes while a trickle of blood ran down its nose. Mr West said that at that moment he wanted the earth to swallow him up. “The way that pony looked into my eyes I would have given the world to reverse what I had done”, he said. But as Mr West stood on our step he wanted us to know that this was not the end of the story. His eyes filled and voice faltered as he said: “A few hours later, in that very seam into which that obstinate pony refused to go, a horrific roof collapse occurred. Mr Thompson, I owe my life to that pony!” Pushing back the tears, he said he would not further intrude on our precious time. Yes, the retired gentleman felt he owed his life to that dear creature that must have had the foresight to know what was to follow.

Dear reader, need you wonder that this refined pensioner became my closest ally in future clashes with a vicar who frequently despised, and ultimately sacked me? Fortunately, I had a very sympathetic and fair-minded bishop, which resulted in an open apology that I had been given an unsuitable tenure as a curate. And also a suggestion that as our youngest had caught a virus, resulting in brain damage for the rest of his life, a more congenial district for my next post would be considered.

Demoted to be promoted!

So, in response to my vicar's letter to him stating that my services were no longer acceptable in this down town mining parish, the bishop offered me a most picturesque living of my own within a, nicknamed, stockbrokers belt of Sheffield. Rumours abounded: ‘he must be one of the bishop's blue-eyed boys!’ However, diplomacy has never ever been my best point, and as the parish was permeated with ‘gentleman’ farmers, huntsmen and advocates of shooting, you will appreciate that what ultimately followed was, quite sadly, far from calm and tranquil. The previous incumbent of Firbeck and Letwell (the parish I was offered) had been told of how privileged he was to 'Purr-back and Sitwell' in such an affluent rural parish. Well, I’m afraid it wasn’t so with myself

The role of a prophet, like a martyr or an apostle, is never a comfortable one. We are called by Christ to take up a cross, and shame on any cleric who seeks to replace it with a cushion.

(To be continued next quarter).

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