February: Reflections from the Rectory
When I was a curate in training (a few years ago now!), I arranged to take a coach load of primary school age children to Dudley Zoo. It was a dismal experience as I recall, for all sorts of reasons, but I think the zoo has since been brought back from the brink. One of the things I remember was the very pleasant car park attendant with his antique ticket machine which he used do his work. So I was very amused to hear this story about him a couple of years later.
The car park outside Dudley Zoo had space for over a hundred cars and a few coaches and using his ticket machine the attendant charged £1 for cars and £5 for coaches. He had worked there for over 20 years and then one day he didn’t turn up to work.
Dudley Zoo management phoned the local council to get them to send a new parking attendant. “But”, said the council “that car park is your responsibility…” “No”, said Dudley Zoo management, “the attendant was employed by the local council, wasn’t he…?” “What attendant?” asked the Council!
Whilst I find this story amusing, obviously for professional reasons I can’t condone this type of behaviour. That would be irresponsible. As a Christian, I believe that just taking what we do not deserve is wrong. Isn’t it?
Well usually it is, but not always. Obviously, this man was wrong: even though his entrepreneurial actions may bring a smile to our lips, ultimately, he was a dishonest man. But I believe there are some things we can take, which we do not deserve – not car park money, of course, but God’s love for us.
Although dated and theologically unfashionable (even my spell checker suggests I change his name to “toilet”!), I very much like the words of the late Paul Tillich (the German-American liberal protestant theologian):
“It is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted by that which is greater than you and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps later you will find it. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later, you will do much. Do not seek anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!’”