Rector's Letter - June 2002
I learnt more about the village in that one hour than in the last three years put together. I was sat in the Pub talking to some of our senior parishioners. The setting was the Horse Shoe Inn as the family and friends of Mrs Armitt gathered after her funeral. The previous Rectors of Astbury were the subject of many reminiscences.
The oldest memories were of Bishop Abraham from the 1920s & 1930s. Bishop Abraham came to Astbury after 18 years as Bishop of Derby. He brought with him a dozen children and established a household of 15 servants, one of whom was a young Annie Armitt fresh from the Village School. His wife is commonly remembered as a very big lady. Arriving at the house of one parishioner she was invited to take a seat. "Would you like a cushion?" the parishioner inquired,
"No thank you" she replied patting her generously upholstered hips, "I've brought my own!" Twelve children and a sense of humour - impressive!
Charles Thomas Abraham was followed by Bishop Vibert Jackson. South Cheshire must have seemed pretty chilly after 14 years as a Bishop in the West Indies. In those days, the winters were regularly cold enough for the Village Pond to freeze hard-over allowing parishioners to go skating. This allowed the daughters of another Rector, Frank Okell, to cause quite a stir. Not only could they skate but they were pretty too. Rector Okell became the first Bishop of Stockport in 1949, but he is often remembered for the kindness of his wife. Mrs Okell raised their six children single-handedly - not because her Episcopal husband left her to it but because she literally only had one hand. She had lost an arm after a tourniquet had been left on for too long.
And what will I be remembered for? Actually, I know already. To a whole generation of our younger parishioners I'll be the Rector with the three-legged dog. No sermon I will ever preach is going to eclipse the image of the dog that hops around the parish after me.
As I left the Horse Shoe, I pondered on our complete powerlessness to write the obituary of other peoples' memories of us. It will be the size of our wife's bottom, an absent limb, a foible, an eccentricity that another generation will sit down and discuss around a pub table. To be overly concerned with how you will be viewed by history has been said to be the weakness of some current Senior Politicians. We must avoid that trap. A Christian should live this life with concern for one opinion only, that of the Father in Heaven, who waits to greet us with the words "Well done, good and faithful servant!" They can remember what they like down on earth - itís the opinion of heaven that matters.
I look forward to meeting some of my predecessors one day. Perhaps I will find out what they were really like, not just what their parishioners remember of them? But then perhaps my exalted company will take one look at me and say, "Where's your dog?"
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