This is a box. It's square with a slit in the top. You can put things in it. If you don't put things in the box you might lose them. If you put things in the box and never take them out you have lost them.
This is a box. You can put things in it. You are not boxes. I can't put things inside you and hope that they will not get lost. I am not going to talk to you all the time and hope that you will remember all that I say.
This is a box. I am going to give you coloured cards and coloured markers. I want you to write what your problems are or what you want to know on the cards. But only one thing on each card. Don't put your name on the card. This is going to be fun. And no, I'm not going to check your spelling or grammar – I promise.
Every year, as Curate, I take the confirmation classes – one evening a week September to March for a group of young people. I try to do more for the young people than what is in the standard curriculum.
Of course we learn the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Catechism and a lot more. But I want the young people to do more than that, to participate, to enjoy the classes and to come to church.
I don't like the old joke about ridding a church of mice or rats. Just confirm them and they will stay away for ever.
I give them a few ideas like “where can I meet God?” and “is Jesus in my home?” Interestingly some of the short ones like “learn to pray” or “learn to pray better” are not so easy.
I draw a cross on the pin board and label the four parts:
we can solve it now is for the easy stuff, when the card reads “how do the bells work?” I arrange for the young people to meet the bell-ringers in the same week.
let's solve this is for the interesting stuff. We discuss how to do it over several weeks, as long as it takes.
we know this is for the trivial stuff and the rather difficult cards are left until last.
After the cards have been written and placed in the box I pick them out and read them out aloud. We choose together in which part of the board to pin them. And it goes on from there.
I must say something first – something really bad for a curate like me.
I CHEAT AND I LIE!
Yes, it's true and I'm not proud of it. The Vicar knows, Primrose knows, but I still do it. I mark the cards. I know exactly who has written what. I read the cards to myself before reading them out loud. I hide some of the cards. I stick in cards that I have written. I cheat and I lie.
I have to. When I see a card that reads “stop Mum and Dad hitting each other”, what can I do? And don't think that I don't get cards like this – it happens every year.
I can't let such cards go on the pin board, it would harm the one who wrote it and although the young people are very enthusiastic, they are not really able to solve such problems so early in their lives. Not that I forget or ignore these problem cards – there are other ways to help.
This year's problem card read “root out the evil in the sweetshop”
I pulled it because I did not want anybody to be laughed at. But then I noticed that it was a green card. I hadn't used green coloured cards. This was a problem for later.
What sweetshop? I asked the Vicar's children, where are the sweetshops in town? What sweetshops? There aren't any. We buy sweets at the supermarket like everyone else.
But there was a sweetshop in the High Street. I hadn't seen it before. It was sandwiched between the Post Office and the Big Supermarket.
I went in. It was just like the sweetshop I went to as a kid. It was full of kids. There were sweets in big glass jars. It was rather old-fashioned. A nice old lady behind the counter served me. I asked for two ounces of pineapple cubes just as I had done years ago.
Oh, no! We don't have those. But we've got these, they're very nice. Do you want to try one?
It was delicious. She weighed four ounces into a little paper bag and I paid for it, not very expensive. I noticed that several of the kids were stealing sweets, but my job today was just to observe, just to see what was in the sweetshop. Funny, I did not recognise any of the children.
Outside in the street I tried a sweet from the bag – it tasted disgusting – they were all disgusting. What did this mean?
I asked the Vicar about the sweetshop. Did he go there?
What sweetshop? You mean the pornographic bookshop between the Post Office and the Big Supermarket? No, I don't go there.
I visited a very old lady who lives in a flat above a shop on the other side of the street to the sweetshop.
Oh, no! I don't go in there. They just sell cheap alcohol to the tramps who hang about the town park. Look down there, you can see the alkies going in and out. Funny, I could only see children.
I asked the Vicar's wife about the sweetshop. Did she go there?
What sweetshop? You mean the perfumery between the Post Office and the Big Supermarket? Oh, yes, just once. I bought some very nice perfume there, very cheap, but when I got home it smelled real bad. Don't go there.
So what next? When I need to think, to pray and ask questions, by myself, I climb to the top of Swin, the bell tower of “St Swithins within”. It is a good place to pray and think, for me anyway.
Go and ask your friend Inspector Jones at the Police Station. He's a man of the world.
What sweetshop? You mean the chemist and pharmacy between the Post Office and the Big Supermarket? Oh, I've got my eye on that place. I think that they are pushing drugs. You only see junkies going in there.
I explained what I had seen and what the others had seen.
Inspector Jones had a good think about this.
You know what? Each one of us finds his own evil in that shop. We need something special to root out the evil in that shop. (I remembered the card.) We need someone who is pure and innocent to go into the shop and sort it out.
You mean... Yes, I do!
No, Primrose had never been in the shop. (What shop?) Yes, she was going to enter the shop and do what was necessary. She is terribly brave.
We met outside the shop, the Vicar and his wife, Inspector Jones and us.
Shop? What shop? Was it a sweetshop, a porno bookshop, a perfumery, a pharmacy, a wine shop or what? We all saw something different.
Don't wish me luck! I don't need it. I have my faith.
Primrose turned and walked straight into the shop. I expected explosions and flames and smoke, but no, nothing.
Suddenly a voice like Primrose's spoke behind us. Hello! You guys!
We turned around. It was Primrose and she was wearing a big hat that I have never seen before or since. We asked, we demanded to know what had happened in the shop.
We turned around. There was no shop. The Post Office was right next to the Big Supermarket. Where's it gone? There is no shop. Was it ever there?
Primrose looked at the Vicar's wife. The Vicar's wife looked at Primrose.
Let's all go back to the Vicarage and have a cup of tea.