Please call the church warden on…

The vicar is away for several weeks’ holidays.  That means anyone phoning the vicarage with queries is asked to phone me as church warden.  I don’t mind.  Happy to help.  Variety is the spice of life, and I get a wide variety of calls.

First call of the hols – yesterday

Unknown mobile, a lady’s voice:

Hallo.  Do you spik Englisch or Cherman?

G in G:

Würden Sie lieber auf Deutsch reden?

WE speak in German.  The caller is one of the local undertakers.  An English lady has recently died.  As she’s not Catholic, the local Catholic priest won’t bury her.  Can the Anglican priest come to … Cemetery this Friday and bury her ashes in an urn?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday abroad this month.  How urgent is it?

Untertaker:

It’s not urgent.  Her ashes are in an urn.

A very practical, German answer.

I email the vicar and cc: the undertaker to assess next steps.

Today the untertaker writes back to advise the local Catholic priest will, after all, bury the English lady’s ashes.  Very kind of him.

floral design steel container

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This afternoon I decide to sit in the library in the city centre in order to:

  1. Read the Torygraph
  2. Write my diary
  3. Think of some blog writing to plan for my avid readers thereof

Another phone call from an unknown mobile number.  It’s a semi-regular member of congregation.

Can the vicar countersign some passport and birth certificate documentation, please?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday this month.  What’s the situation?  Maybe I can help?

It turns out:

  • The fiance is a national of country X
  • but was born in country Y
  • and also has a passport of country Z

Fiancee is a German national, but has decided that she and fiance will get married in Caribbean country XX, which requires about 300 copies of doxs (countersigned by a doctor, teacher, priest or person of similar standing) in order for a marriage to take place there.  But if all else fails, they will marry in a German registry office to make it all legal.

G in G:

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrright, I think I understand.  Where are you right now?

Semi-regular member of congregation (SMOC):

We’re at the airport.

G in G:

If you’d like to come to the library in the city centre, I can take a look and countersign.

SMOC’s fiance turns up thirty minutes later.  We sit in the library.  I have a brainwave.

Let’s jump in your car and head to the church.  We have a selection of rubber stamps there.  That’ll make everything look more official .

Twenty minutes later we reach the church office.  I grab the official rubber stamps and the ink pad.  I take a sheet of A4 paper from the photocopier.

Thump, thump!   Thump, thump!

For a moment, I felt like I was an immigration official at passport control.

I show the sample rubber stamps to SMOC and fiance.  They are happy.

I take the copies of passport and driving licence.  Fountain pen out, I write:

I certify…

I open the ink pad again.

Thump, thump!

Church rubber stamp next to my signature and at the bottom of the page.  Off you go!

person holding brown stamp

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Have a rubbery day, won’t you!

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It is right to give thanks and praise…

It is indeed right.  It is our duty and our joy.

It certainly is.  What am I talking about?  Let us, as the psychiatrists say, go back to childhood.

When I was celebrating my birthday as army brat living in Germany, my mum would make me sit down at the kitchen table to write thank-you letters to my grandparents for my birthday money – even for the £1 note that my Grandma would send me.  And not just:

Thanks for the money you sent me.
Love,
Ginge in Germany

No, it had to be properly constructed – followed by a guaranteed ten-minute nagging session of my mother about how scruffy my handwriting was.   Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I hope you are well.  Thank you for the £1 birthday present.  It was a very nice surprise. 
I will use the money to buy a very nice book that I saw in the shop last week.  It is all about dinosaurs.  I think it will be very interesting.  It has lots of pictures of triceratops, which is my favourite dinosaur. 
Love,
Ginge in Germany

And actually, I do think writing such a letter and expressing gratitude is a very worthwhile exercise.

manners

Last year, one church council meeting just before the summer holidays started, we had a lengthy discussion about how to encourage members of congregation to give of their time to church, whether that be as:

  • Sidesperson
  • Catering staff
  • Intercessions
  • Readings
  • Cleaning
  • Maintenance
  • Sunday school helper
  • etc etc etc

I suggested a simple way: go back to childhood habits.   Send a handwritten thank you card to everyone who hase given of their time to church.  I’ve never been a backseat driver.  I rarely say:

Someone should do that.

I say:

I will do that.

The day after that meeting, I spent three hours in the church meeting room, fountain pen by my side, bottle of navy blue ink by my side, a pile of dm thank-you card (50 cents each – bargain!) on the table in front of me.  Oh yes, and a few sheets of postage stamps (non-self-adhesive), also on the table next to my church directory.

Card to:

  • Adrian Aardvark…
  • Billy and Sally Boyne…
  • Carol Cardomah…
  • Zachary Zilman

…finished.  (Time for a cup of tea.)

Total number of cards sent last year: 33.  I counted every single one of them.  Not bad, when you consider our congregation consists of about 90 people.

What was the reaction?  They loved it.  I had so many people coming up to me at the next service after the cards were sent, saying,

Hey, thank you so much for your card.  I wondered what it was when I came back off holiday!  Really nice to be appreciated.

This year I decided to do the same.  I just hope I haven’t missed anybody out.  On the way to my office I had to stop off that local post to ask the nice lady who works there for some nice, attractive stamps.

And here they are…

thanks2

thanks3

thanks4

thanks1

After several hours – the finished product!

It is good to show proper appreciation at least once a year to volunteer, who do so much for our church.  People appreciate being appreciated.  Say it with flowers a handwritten card!

This year: 37 cards sent.

Have an appreciative day, won’t you!

How to confuse a 5-year-old

A few weeks ago I attended a Roman Catholic first communion, namely that of a young relative of Schatz.  Me, I’m a Prod and proud, to quote from the song, but I’m more than happy to attend such things, stick some cash in the lad’s Erste Kommunion card and join the family for post-mass buffet lunch (which was delicious).

Before the mass started, I chatted to Schatz’s relative-in-law, her five-year-old daughter, seated between us.  R-in-L and I chatted in German.  Daughter sat quietly all during the mass.

Eventually we reached the Lord’s Prayer.  Everyone else said it in German: Vater unser, etc.  I said it in English, my beloved mother tongue, thus:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily  bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
When before the Collect the priest alone recites the prayer, the people here respond: Amen.
When after all have communicated the people repeat each petition after the priest, the prayer ends:
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Within a few syllables, five-year-old is staring at me, her jaw nearly reaching the ground.  Daughter tells Mutti words to the effect:

I can’t understand a word he is saying.

Mutti tells daughter:

He comes from another country. 

(Daughter still looks mystified as I flick back into German.)

Have a confusing day, won’t you!

man driving vehicle near tree

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We Are Not A Babysitter Service…

I reiterate once more.  I admit it once more.  I am a care bear.

But even I have my limits.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother  (DFSM).  Husband works away a lot.  She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own.  Probably her German is limited.  Ditto (I suspect) her English.  I have noticed her several times in the past few months.  I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon?  She often seems in a bit of a daze.

After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:

House group member:

Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings.  You really should come.  We are looking at the Book of Acts.  We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.

DFSM:

Oh, I will come.

Fast-forward to the following Wednesday.  It’s 19:45.  Most of the house group members are there.

Let me just interject here.  House group is also known as:

  • Home group
  • Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
  • Life group
  • Bible study

We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.

My mobile rings. It is DFSM.

An abrupt:

Hey, when is the service?

I tell her it starts in 10 minutes.  DFSM cuts the call.

We carry on, ploughing through the passage.

20:20, and it’s DFSM again.

Hey, where is the service?  I am at Blahblahstrasse.

We talk her through how to get house group.  It is now 20:24.  I have had a strenuous week month.  My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…

20:30 DFSM arrives.

Her 2-year-old child in tow.

Nobody says a thing.  Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped.  Nobody wants to make a fuss.  I bite my lip.  I bite my tongue.

Group leader hands DFSM a bible.  DFSM seems puzzled.  Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others.  It’s house group, bible study, ma’am.  The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.

Offspring screams.

Offspring shouts.

Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.

We all politely smile and say how active offspring is.  I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers.  It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.

20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.

20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.

Bible study disrupted.  Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed.  My blood pressure sky-high.  DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space.  House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive.  Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.

Am I being too harsh?  Too un-Christian?  I checked with two friends of mine.  Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening.  Normally he will disagree with me on everything.  B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me.  She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.

If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming?  The evening becomes not fit for purpose.  A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.

Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs.  Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime?  Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned?  Rant over.

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

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Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!

 

Glory to Stalin!

Stalin’s reign.

An old lady gets on a bus in Moscow. She has waited a long time, and sits down with a sigh of relief. “Oh, glory to God!” she exclaims.

The bus driver turns around with a grave look.

“Comrade, there is no God. You must say, ‘Glory to Comrade Stalin.'”

The old lady apologizes and pledges to remember this. After a minute, she pipes up,

“Comrade, what shall I say, if, heaven forbid, Comrade Stalin should die?”

The bus driver pauses, and answers,

“Oh! Then you shall say, ‘Glory to God!'”

Have a glorious day, won’t you!

Glory-to-Stalin

“No School Tomorrow” 2

Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, coined the expression, “Alarm clock Britain,” the people who have to get up in the morning and go to work.  I’m part of Alarm Clock Germany.

It’s 20:00 on Monday evening.  It’s monthly church council meeting.  Budget time.  Our treasurer is taking us through the list of repairs planned for this financial year.  I sit back and listen.  I day dream.  I munch a biscuit.  I munch another biscuit…. and another.  In fact, nearly a pack gone.  I sip my tea.

The repairs list should really be nodded through.  It all has to be done.  The sooner, the better.

Billy butts in and asks about repairs to the vestry window.  Can we get a lower quote?

Billy butts in and asks about repairs to the church boiler.  Can that be delayed?

Billy butts in and asks about replacements to the chairs in church.  How old are the chairs?

I lose interest.  I check my mobile to see if there are any Whatsapp messages from Grasshopper.  I pick up my Lamy fountain pen and start to jot down my shopping list for my next visit to Aldi.  Others round the table seem to be doing similar.  The vicar sitting next to me takes the tea pot and pours himself another cup of tea.  He needs caffeine to keep him awake while Billy drones on about each individual item.

Finally we take a vote on repairs.  A nearly unanimous vote for the programme of repairs.  Billy is opposed.

The next agenda items are discussed at length, and rightly so.

Finally, at 22:05 we reach AOB: Any Other Business.  (Please, please, Mr Chairman, hopefully none, so we can all go home.)

Billy:

Yes, I want to ask why we are installing poles in the church car park?  Are they necessary?

Ginge in Germany:

With the greatest respect, do we really need to discuss this topic here and now, at 22:07 on a Monday evening.

Billy (hackles starting to rise):

Yes, we do.  This is an important health and safety issue.

All around the meeting room, eyes roll.  We have run out of biscuits.  The tea has all been drunk.  We all want to go home.

[Tedious dull technical discussion about trip hazards.  Billy utters his must-say expression: “At my last church in England, we…”]

I doodle a stick man, a pine tree and a cat face in my notebook.  I day dream of the last meal I had down my local curry house.

Billy stops speaking.  It’s now 22:20.

I interject:

Is that the end?  Some of us have school tomorrow.

Vicar:

Yes, I think so.  Shall we say The Grace?

We say The Grace and the meeting concludes.

Billy looks like he wants to carry on having a windbag, probably about the colour of the tea towels in the church hall kitchen.  Not at 22:23, thanks, mate…

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23:00 I climb into bed, tune in to BBC Radio 4 and set my alarm clock for 07:00 tomorrow.  Billy sends me a Whatsapp message about the trip hazards of small holes in the ground.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Have a stimulating day, won’t you!

Do Your Homework First…

Evenin’ all! A slightly rhetorical question for you all.  What is “research” these days?  Let’s head to our local pub and meet our Kneipenprofessor.

person holding glass filled with liqour

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Pub Expert:

I’ve been researching this topic.

Other person:

Oh, you mean you wrote a paper on the subject citing at least 10-15 reputable sources, summarising all the current thinking, stating your own hypothesis and then introducing the original work you did in the attempt to confirm or disprove this hypothesis before reaching a conclusion and giving further possible directions for study, after which you got it published in a reputable journal in the field and peer-reviewed?

Pub Expert:

Er, no, I looked at some websites that I agree with.

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This afternoon I was drinking coffee with fellow members of church, when Holocaust Memorial Day was mentioned.

As soon as I mentioned the day, Billy butted in:

Oh, that’s only about the Jews 1933-1945.

My blood pressure immediately doubled.  Billy has once again engaged mouth before brain.  Yet again…

Sharp intake of breath.

G in G:

No, it’s not.  It’s also about holocausts and genocides in ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Tibet, Burma and many other conflicts.

Billy:

It is only about the Jews.  I’ve been researching this topic for twenty years.

G in G:

With respect [A British expression meaning, “I consider you to be a complete and total idiot”] I visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  I also listened to a radio interview with the chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust this morning.

Billy:

Oh.

I am then reminded of the English barrister, F E Smith, and his famous exchange with a judge.

Judge: I’ve listened to you for an hour and I’m none the wiser.

Smith: None the wiser, perhaps, My Lord, but certainly better informed.

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This evening I decided to send out an email to the three people who were in that discussion.

****

Good evening all

Following on from this afternoon’s discussion in the Meeting Room concerning the purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day, I thought it prudent to share some important facts.

  1. The day is by no means only about the murder of German and European Jews under Nazism.  Please refer to the Memorial Day Trust’s link: https://www.hmd.org.uk/what-is-holocaust-memorial-day/
  2. As you can see, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust states explicitly: “Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. We promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) – the international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.”  (My emphasis in italics.)
  3. The key point to note here is that history repeats itself, with human beings being murdered for being the “wrong” ethnic background, not just for being Jewish, but also for being Roma, Hutu, Tutsi, Croat/Bosniak/Serb (in the former Yugoslavia conflicts of the early 1990s), Rohinga, Tibetan, Uighur, etc.
  4. On a very personal note, I myself visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  Ever since then, I have studied genocide in conflicts.  Further, in the first half of the 90’s, my father worked for British Direct Aid in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda (during and in the aftemath of both conflicts, albeit not at the peak of the former conflict).
  5. Former comrades of mine from the British Army’s Intelligence Corps have told me about carrying out war crime investigations and finding mass graves that contained multiple layers from more than one conflict: 1990’s civil war, Second World War, possibly more.
  6. In conclusion, this is why Holocaust Memorial Day exists: namely, to echo the sentiments of Remembrance Day – Lest we forget.  Sadly, and to our eternal shame before God, we humans forget history time and time again.

I’m sorry I feel it necessary to write a serious email this evening, but I do consider it essential to explain what this day is all about, and also why I feel so strongly about the subject.

Finally, let us all please pray for peace on God’s earth this week.

Yours in Christ,

Ginge in Germany

****

Have a well-informed day, won’t you!

woman in black long sleeved looking for books in library

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