A tale from auntie Barbara's Cream Bun cafe
Another tale from Auntie Barbara’s Cream Bun Café
(All characters in this piece are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental)
It was a bright, chilly morning in December. Barbara and Ruby, the owners of the Cream Bun Café, were really looking forward to the arrival of what they affectionately called, the Monday Ministers. The reason was the headlines in the Local Paper. “Parish Priest Poleaxed by Christmas Crib Shepherd”.
The Ministers came every Monday morning and sat at the same table. If more than the usual number arrived, two tables were pushed together. Pots of tea and coffee along with two plates of assorted, though not too fancy, cakes and buns were set on the table so they could help themselves.
First to arrive was Rev. Gregory Patterson from the local Church of Ireland. If anyone knew how to generate church funds, it was Gregory. He had written a book entitled “101 Ways” with the subtitle “To Fleece the Public at Church Fetes”. It had sold well to Anglican and Catholics, but not the Presbyterians. To his never ending delight “Heaven Sent Ecclesiastical Accessories” had included it in their catalogue which more or less guaranteed world wide coverage. It was like The Argos Catalogue but only included Religious Items.
Well, that’s not exactly correct as it included a section “Gifts for Your Minister”. Among other things, congregations could give their Minister a voucher for “skidpan driving experience”, a “bungee jump” or a Sky Dive entitled “Heaven to Hell in 50 seconds.” Of course it also included sections on Candles, Furniture, Teaching Aids, Robes and Vestments, Christmas and Easter Visual Displays and church books.
Next to arrive was Knox McDonald, who looked and spoke like a solid traditional elderly Presbyterian Minister. He believed in giving the congregation a good smell of Hell’s Sulphur. He was followed in by his young, plump, in a pretty sort of way, assistant minister, Gabrielle Johnson.
Knox was finding it increasingly hard to get in tune with the Twenty First Century Presbyterian. His great booming voice from the pulpit sounded like an ultimatum “Thou shall not commit adultery - adultery thou shall not commit”. Now, Twenty First Century Presbyterians don’t like being threatened with what they can and can't do. They thought to themselves “I don’t plan to, but I’ll commit adultery if I feel like it”. While on the other hand, when Gabrielle preached on the same commandment it sounded like she would be really pleased if you didn’t commit adultery. She was so nice you resolved to be good and not commit adultery if only to help Gabrielle keep in with God.
Samuel Smyth, the Methodist, arrived next. His biggest congregations were at funerals where he did his best to win over the other denominations to the Methodist way. He sat on most of the Primary school Management Committees, and despite the fair employment legislation, managed to get members of his congregation employed at each school.
The Ministers and Pastors from the not so main stream churches didn’t always come. Pastor Ruben Smith from the High Street Gospel Hall came most Mondays because he also had a Christian Book Shop and wanted to keep in with the big boys to get the Sunday school prize business.
However, on this rather unusual Monday, there was a full turnout. After all it wasn’t every week that a representative of the Pope of Rome, albeit a lowly Parish Priest, was knocked out cold by a Shepherd taken from the Christmas Crib. All waited and hoped Father Mathew would put in an appearance. And he did, complete with heavily bandaged head. Sympathy all round. “Sit down, take the weight off your feet, it must have been the worst experience ever of your ministry. Tell us what happened.” Pastor Jack was privately thinking it must have been the manifestation of the Antichrist come to avenge the Pope of Rome for sins of the Catholic Church. But it wasn’t, it was a Parishioner with drink taken.
However, a circumspect Father Mathew thought it was God’s way of slapping him over the knuckles to bring him down to earth. It seems that last Christmas he attended a joint service in the Anglican Church and a rather nice small Christmas crib in the porch had caught his eye. Gregory saw his interest and explained it had been bought from the Heaven Sent Ecclesiastical Accessories Mail Order Catalogue. Gregory had lent him the Catalogue and given him a signed copy of “101 Ways”.
Three pages were taken up with Christmas Cribs. Father Mathew explained that a nasty thought had entered his head, and he had decided to order the biggest, fully- illuminated Christmas Crib available just to get one over on the Protestants when they came to the joint service in his church this year.
It arrived in four boxes. The Crib itself was in Flat Pack form and required a spanner, screwdriver and hammer to assemble. After several tries and re-reading the instructions, it took shape, measuring six foot by four. There was no doubt it was very impressive, with plug in back lighting. The other boxes had the animals, Mary and Joseph, Shepherds and Wise Men. The lot, all standing at least twelve inches high made of solid plastic and clothed in the dress of biblical times. There was a very life like Baby Jesus and a bag of real straw chopped to size. Two angels, who looked a bit like they could double as Christmas Fairies were suspended above the Crib. They were dressed in white, and as if to highlight their purity they had lights stuck up inside their clothes. Father Mathew agreed with his housekeeper Annie that this was a bit over the top, but couldn’t bring himself to put his hand up their skirts and remove the bulbs. Good Priests don’t interfere with angels and particularly with angels that look like fairies.
Anyway to cut a long story short, the Crib was built, wired up and plugged in near the front of the church. Initial reaction was good. A number of parishioners commented on how authentic it looked and put in perspective the Christmas story.
But the Lord moves in mysterious ways. At four o’clock in the afternoon a Parishioner, normally a good catholic, was wending his way home past the church having been celebrating in the Pub since lunchtime. By coincidence, at the very same time, Father Mathew was kneeling at the crib praying for the Altar Boy who had singed his hair rather badly while fiddling with a candle. He was also hoping that the awful smell of singed hair would disperse, as the flowers Annie had bought had failed. When he looked at the martyr pictures he knew by the agony in their faces they were familiar with the smell of singed hair and a lot more. Otherwise, he was quietly confident that everything was under control in the run up to Christmas.
Maybe it was the Parishioner or maybe it was the hand of God, but a solid plastic Shepherd was slammed down hard on Father Mathews head. He fell into the Crib, extinguishing the angel’s lights and his own. He woke up in hospital with a choir of Girl Guide’s singing “Away In a Manger No Crib for a Bed” just outside the ward.
If this is a Christmas message from God, perhaps it is that He loves all Christian Denominations equally, and to try and get one over on the others is not the done thing.
Well that’s the news from the Cream Bun café, where if it’s not one thing it’s another. Oh, and I forgot to tell you, the Angel Cakes are divine.
Other tales from Auntie Barbara’s Cream Bun Café on Writing.com can be found at
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