Thursday 23 January 2014

Three Valleys Cluster

Across the Water (as in Irish Sea, if I going to talk about America it would be across The Pond) they are in a peculiar situation where they have an Established Church with a rather famous person called Mrs Elizabeth Windsor as the Chairman of the Board with the Archbishop of Canterbury as CEO.  This religious affiliation is still privileged although members of other religions are no longer handicapped in any direct way.  I think there is still a formal prohibition on the monarch or the heir to the throne marrying a catholic but that provision only affects a small minority of the population.  The oddity of the situation is that there are more practicing Muslims in the UK (2.7 million claim that as a religion) than practicing members of the Church of England.  This body somehow claims that it still has 22 million members but sheepishly admits that only 1.1 million are regular church goers.  In 2013, they claimed that the decline (about 1% fewer attendees each year this century) was bottoming out having further declined in the previous year, but only by 0.3%.  These active believers are spread across some 16,250 parishes, which sounds okay: about 70 head for each church.  But this is the average and there is a wide enough distribution around this ball-park figure.

I spoke to my mother the other day and she was chatting on about the fact that when she goes to church in the village early on those few Sundays that the option is available in her village, she knows she is likely to be one of a short handful of parishioners getting together nearer my God to thee under the same roof at the same time.  The parish church which has been serving the local community since the C12th, is now barely used.  Until recently the local rector was responsible for several parishes and he went round to them in a complex rota so that, at least once a month, you could see him in a church within walking distance of your home.

But with the falling numbers of believers and the falling number of people with vocations for the priesthood, there aren't enough people available to maintain even this diminished level of support/access.  The CoE is organised in a hierarchical way familiar to biological taxonomists and classifiers.  Instead of Class Mammalia; Order Tubulidentata; Genus Orycteropus; Species O. afer - the aardvark -- you have the Diocese of Salibury; Deanery of Sherborne; Parish of Yetminster; Chapelry of Chetnole.  Now the Deanery, in a bid for greater efficiencies or just plain survival has merged three parish-clusters into an uber-cluster served by two chaps (average 0.67). This is an increasing trend in many areas where face-to-face interaction with Joe Public is required.  GPs are no longer available for call-out any time of the day or night.  In Ireland over the last 15ish years, groups of GPs agree to share the off-duty hours and service the need in a rotation called Care-Doc. I believe (alleluia!) that The Vicars of Dorset get a company car because they're going to be doing a lot of miles to get among Bishop's Caundle, Caundle Marsh, Folke, Glanvilles Wootton, Holnest, Holwell, Pulham, Bradford Abbas with Clifton Maybank, Yetminster with Hilfield, Ryme Intrinsica, Batcombe, Chetnole, Hermitage, Leigh. Thornford, and Beer Hackett.  This congeries is called the Three Valleys Cluster because it serves the Vale of the White Hart, the Gifle Valley and the Wriggle Valley.  And there you have it, I only mentioned this wholly parochial issue so that I'd have an excuse to put down a list of placenames that have been around since the Domesday Book of 1086: Etiminstre: 31 villagers. 35 smallholders. 10 slaves.:
Bradford Abbas; I bet they wear smocks and have their own tankard behind the bar in their Local - The Rose & Crown.  The Yetties, a key group in the English folk-revival. of the 1970s hailed from Yetminster and brought light song and a laugh to many a cider-quaffing crustie for 40 years until they hung up the accordion in 2011.

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