Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
"Christ’s redemption is for the whole of creation!"

From Winter 2010 Issue

Episode 4
The Flock That Christendom Forgot
Or an animal padre’s uphill pilgrimage

It needs to be said that Vet 1 had been a most cordial fellow at our first meeting of the church council. A contrast to the day he turned up at the Rectory door! Though forced to use two sticks because of a creeping paralysis that he bravely fought against - the perspiration often appearing on his forehead - he had spoken of how the parish had been latterly left to go down, under the previous Incumbent’s twenty year reign. This past cleric had received some criticism for sucking up to the more affluent clientele of the parish and ignoring the less prosperous members. Well, I had assured both him and the rest of the gathered parochial church council, that evening a few months past, that they had no need to fear as I would not fall in to a similar trap!

The Vet had also mentioned to the gathering, which had turned out to assess us, that a parish magazine needed to be started; and though this venture would be run by them (the church council), a letter from myself, once I’d been duly installed as their rector, would also be welcome! ‘Big deal!’ I thought to myself, smiled and remained mute. However, after being duly inducted in to the benefice, and in consultation with my bishop one was advised to the contrary. ‘As rector you would be very wise to hold the editorship in your own hands. This is part of your commission and responsibility as priest of the parish!’

Consequently, once inducted - and having learnt much from far-off days as an apprentice printer! - I soon brought out an attractive parish magazine; and, in a sense, I suppose, over their heads! Nevertheless, I’d also learned from my past Free Church years never to fall in to the trap of becoming a puppet to a few but rather to be a prophet for the masses. What was published - after much prayer – would be, surely, what God wanted me to say rather than man!.

It was little wonder then that, before long, passages on our need to protect weaker forms of life than our own appeared in this monthly magazine; and, as intensive factory farming and vivisection were matters touched upon, it was this Vet ‘number One’ who one day called round in a highly agitated mood. “I have taken it upon myself to be spokesman for decent folk in the parish – some of whom are respected clients – to say that we are disturbed by some of your articles in the parish magazine”. Indeed, he had no need to tell me. One had already withdrawn his covenant for financing the church; something the parish could ill afford. “What is more”, he added,”a young couple’s marriage could be in danger after you’d opposed the husband’s new and quite humane practice of rearing fowl” “Humane? I replied: “You’ll be telling me next that vivisection is also humane!” And he sought to assure me that all animal experiments were humane and void of pain!

That dear young farmer's wife - married into the family - was becoming very sympathetic to my stand and disturbed about it all, so I assured the Vet that, 'God helping me', I would be as fearless in proclaiming the truth as had been John the Baptist. Whereupon, on getting up to leave the rectory, his parting words were a word of warning: “Watch that your head is not knocked off as the Baptist's was!”.

Just Like The comical Vicar Of Dibley’s Churchwarden! Churchwarden

The monthly Parochial church council meetings which followed became increasingly tempestuous and Vet one's buddy - an arable farmer, prominent free mason in the district and self styled gentleman farmer - took every opportunity to criticise my chairing procedure of meetings. Yes, and to 'put a spanner in the works' by affirming, repeatedly: 'Point of order, Mr Chairman!'

However, unlike the farcical lady vicar Of Dibley, I was not prepared to hand over the chairmanship of the church meetings to one’s churchwarden; even though he'd held the post for 21 years and displayed a character and style most uncannily akin to her ‘thorn in the flesh’.. What was more, as the man was not even qualified as a lay reader, I would not allow him to conduct church services as my predecessor had done. And then, following further clashes in which he brought in a ‘stuttering’ archdeacon because I would not leave go of the chalice while giving him communion from the same, the crack between us turned into a chasm.

Only Once Did Reconciliation Seem Imminent

Indeed, the only truly affable occasion with this gentleman farmer followed when he strongly hinted that I would do well as a mason He, himself would be in the chair the following year, and if I joined I might even end up as a cleric ’to eventually carry a sword!’ Well, although some other masons appeared to be loyal, upright men of much integrity, this fellow’s condescending attitude towards me was to, irrationally, embitter me towards the whole Craft for many years to follow. Indeed, hope of reconciliation with this warden - on my part - was short-lived, as not only did this troublesome fellow constantly phone the archdeacon ‘over my head’ on the most trivial of matters, but he did the unforgivable, He began turning up at Sunday morning worship complete with a rifle. This he would leave in the vestibule; so as to either commence or continue his blood sports once worship had finished.

It was an extremely hard decision for me to make, but after he had been, for no less than 21 years, churchwarden appointed by the previous rector, I told him I had chosen someone else who was fully sympathetic to my outlook. Indeed, the fellow chosen was a farm labourer with a heart of gold; a gentle animal carer of humble background, So as one can imagine, there were a few who were eager to tell their rector that his choice was hardly a wise one.

- to be continued.

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