Having resisted the temptation of a "Creative box" of lego in Woolworths this morning I walked back to my office with the big bag of popcorn for our film night on Saturday. As I passed our local "pound" shop I saw lots of brightly coloured storage boxes. Normally this reminds me that I need to tidy my office but, as I am gazing at a clear desktop as I type, (YES REALLY!) that didn't occur to me this time. No what struck me was that amongst all the useful stacking shelves and whacky purple boxes with silver lids there was a CAT Carrier. I was struck with this image of my youth work resources neatly stacked along with a cat in a cat box staring out at me as I'm typing my blog!
It also reminded me of a story that, I think I'm right in saying, Canon Vincent Strudwick told when he preached at evensong at All Saints' once. He was talking about curious customs and how we should examine why we do things with reasonable regularity. There are indeed many intriguing practices (especially in a church like ours) that, when explored, actually open your eyes to a depth of spirituality that is sometimes surprising. There are also, however, things which we do that are inexplicable and occasionally ridiculous. It was these latter activities that Vincent (I really do think it was him but apologies if anyone else remembers it being them!) addressed his story to.
Community memory has it that there was a church in a certain town where the parishioners had gathered on a Sunday morning for their regular Eucharist and during the service a cat wandered in and sat in a pew. This struck them somewhat and after the service the people serving coffee gave it a little saucer of milk. It drank the milk and left.
The next week the same thing happened and one of the parishioners had brought the cat a little treat as well; some chicken. The weeks came and went and so did the cat. After a while the cat came more often than Sunday and spent most of its time in the church receiving titbits from devoted fans, young and old.
Then one Sunday, during the Eucharist the cat suddenly ran out in front of the priest and almost tripped him over as he was about to give people communion. Fortunately one of the servers caught the cat and, taking her girdle from round her waist, used the rope to secure the cat to the lady chapel screen.
The church council met later that week and the issue of the cat was raised in Any Other Business. It was agreed that, during services, the cat should be tied up as they had done on Sunday.
So it was that the next Sunday, one of the servers was sent to catch the rather reluctant cat and tie it with one of the girdles to the screen by the lady chapel. At the end of the service, the cat was released and given its usual treats by devoted fans, young and old.
The weeks passed and gradually the cat began to scratch less and in fact after a time the cat would go and sit by the lady chapel screen waiting to be tied up.
Years passed and the old vicar retired. A new vicar came and the cat continued to be tied up during the service each week. Then more years passed and the cat didn't drink as much milk and seemed less keen on the treats from its fans now somewhat older and some others still young.
When more years had passed, the cat continued to come in every Sunday and sit by the lady chapel screen, where it was duly tied up by one of the servers. The cat moved a little slower each week and eventually, sadly, one day the cat came in, sat by the lady chapel screen and when the server went to tie it up, she saw that the cat had died.
The church council met later that week and the issue of the tied-up cat was on the agenda. Though no-one could rememeber why they did it, or how it came about, they all agreed that they should by a new cat so that it coul dbe tied to the lady chapel screen during the Sunday service.
This wonderful story has led to a new phrase in our church. If a tradition is viewed as curious, spurious or lacking in reasonable motivation of any kind it is questioned wiht the phrase, "That's a bit tied-up-cat isn't it?"