Saturday, 28 February 2015

The vicar was called

There aren’t so many local labels left.
Family doctor - off duty,
village policeman - gone with the scrumping boys
but still Our Vicar has a common meaning,
albeit only vaguely understood.

Vicar - it’s a hard, ugly word
without the rounded depth of ‘Rector’
or the other worldly veil of ‘priest’.
It’s an English word, easy to say with
tired and misplaced respect
easier still to spit with scorn
over a Vicarage hedge.
Anachronistic, clinging to a past privilege
impersonal, speaking only of the role
or of the gleefully discovered flaws
revealed by sly tabloids and their wicked rhymes.

What does it mean, this title not beloved by anyone?
What is a Vicar for?
Someone who stands in - vicarious
stands in a line of names painted on a board
connecting back this baby squawking in his tiny three piece suit
to one brought here in time of plague, or war
and to the one who takes him by the ancient font
hands tipping the same water onto newborn heads.
Standing before couples from a world and time away
making the same leap into the same unknown.
Standing - each one - at every coffin’s foot
speaking the words, signing with the cross
before the spadefuls of the same earth fall.

Someone who stands for - what?
What we would all like to believe…?
What we the church would like to be…?
What this place of living might become
in our best hopes and hearts…?

A person who stands in for God?
No wonder that we prick the pompous claim
delighting when we bring one down to earth.
But, maybe, in that place where downward V
and upward reach just touch, and hold
someone who wears an old and unloved label
(uncomfortably tight around the neck)
can dare to stand - to stand for us
and say ‘this is our place’

laughable as it is, with all our fears and flaws
our robes of ridicule and bluster,
still, underneath it all, this poor bare soul
dares to stand here
with one hand reaching up to heaven
and one hand reaching down to earth,
pulled half in two, but holding
saying, ‘I am the vicar - your vicar
standing in for you
- this is your place.’


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