'Be Prepared' was the motto of the Cub Scouts, back in the distant days of my youth. It still is. Some years ago, while in parish ministry, we ran a variety of youth events supported by Youth With A Mission. The young YWAM people remarked to me that their motto was 'Be prepared to pray, preach or perish in the next three minutes.'
Perhaps one of these mottos should be adopted by the parish priest of Kwacha and Dean of St. John’s Seminary.
One Sunday in late July I went to lead the service, accompanied by one of our students. One of the lay readers was on the schedule to preach that day. I spotted him as I got out of the car at the church. “Ah” I said, “our preacher for the day has arrived”. The reply was, “No Father, this is MAF (Men’s Anglican Fellowship) Day. This is the one who is going to preach”.
As he said this, he dragged forward a young man in the MAF uniform of blue jacket and white shirt who was clearly visiting the parish. I nodded to the young man and warned him sternly that sermons longer than 20 minutes were not tolerated while I was celebrant and moved on with the preparations for the service.
As we were all getting ready in the vestry the same lay reader came rushing in. With aghast expression he informed us that the young visiting MAF member was not in fact the preacher. “I was told that there would be a MAF preacher” he wailed, “And I have not prepared a sermon”. I looked hopefully at the student... who bleakly shook his head. The two other lay readers were equally blank.
Somehow, I had been prompted to look over the reading earlier in the week and had a simple and fairly stock idea of one way to handle the text. I was, for want of a better term, 'prepared'.
The following Sunday I turned up, first carefully checking with our student that it was he, and not I, who was preaching that day. He assured me that he was ready for action. We arrived, and I noticed that the chalice and paten were missing. They were locked in a cupboard. The key was in the possession of the Church Warden, who was absent.
I looked at the cupboard for some time. There was a simple ply board door secured by a bolt locked by the offending lock. Thoughts of the large wheel brace in the back of the car flitted through my mind. A long leaver, a fulcrum and it would not take Aristotle to move the bolt. Too extreme, I thought, too destructive.
I looked at the bolt, secured by six screws and wished I had a screw driver…oh wait, there is a screw driver, along with that wheel brace in the back of the car. I was, for want of a better term, 'prepared'.
I was about to wonder what the next week would bring, when a telephone conversation about another matter ended with "Are you coming to the conference on Monday"?
"Conference, what conference"?
An ecumenical conference on theological education, apparantly. I have read the documents, the accommodation is booked, Lyn has my bag ready. I am, for want of a better term, prepared