When vicars (or their wives) are chatting about the joys and challenges of parish life, there’s a sort of shorthand to describe the less spiritual aspects of church leadership that church leaders usually have to get involved in: ‘drains’, and sometimes ‘guttering’.
I remember chatting with Chickenfan, who was speaking at a Clergy Wives conference I was on. He’d resigned from parish ministry to concentrate on speaking and teaching the bible. ‘It’s a great relief not to have to worry about the drains’, he said.
Well, this weekend the Vicar had his first experience of drains. We were hanging about in the church hall at the end of the monthly church coffee morning, just getting ready to leave. The church itself was being used by another congregation for a big meeting, so the building was quite busy.
An elderly lady form the other church caught me and told me that one of the ladies’ toilets was blocked, so I went to have a look. Having worked as a sewage engineer and everything, I wasn’t afraid.
It was indeed blocked, although there was no obvious cause. At the same time, Westie (a church member) mentioned to the Vicar that there was a bit of a leak in the church hall kitchen. As the Vicar and Westie started mopping up it became obvious that the leak was from the dreaded drains and was linked to the blocked loo. Yuck.
So the Vicar and wife, ably aided by Westie, leapt to the rescue. Leaving the men to the dirty mopping, I went back to the Vicarage and called the cavalry (the churchwarden) who advised sending for the specialists. I picked a number from the Yellow Pages and was promised a visit within an hour or so.
When I returned to the hall, the toilets had been declared out of bounds (not ideal when there are a couple of hundred people in the building). But at least the leak had stopped. The Vicar got busy bleaching the kitchen sinks, after he and Westie had scrubbed the floor with Flash.
The warden returned to supervise the drain specialists who cleared the blockage with rods. The Vicar was also in attendance, so is now up to speed on the drain layout of the church. There was talk of obtaining a set of drain rods for the church to save further call outs.
Problem solved, and a couple of sermon prep hours down the drain. Time management is tricky as a vicar.