The case of the newspaper cutting...
I recall a session during my training for ministry on Dealing with the Press. It was about how to write articles like this one, and perhaps more importantly how to stay out of The News of the World, though nobody actually said that.
The News of the World would feature a Naughty Vicar Story fairly regularly. You can imagine what went into such stories - all guaranteed to sell newspapers, of course. A bishop once complained bitterly that it was only news when the vicar ran off with the churchwarden’s wife, but not when a parish raised enough money to build a hospital in Ethiopia.
I was reminded of this not long ago when, among the crisp packets and sweet wrappers that had collected under the vicarage hedge, I found a scrap of newspaper and with it, a mystery. Had the wind just blown it there? When I picked it up I found that it had been torn, cut and folded so that just the headline was showing. It was a Naughty Vicar Story. Had it been left as a prank?
I looked up the story on the internet. St Paul, in his famous passage from I Corinthians 13, wrote of love being patient and kind, keeping no score of wrongs and enduring all things. But newspapers don’t work that way, and neither apparently did the Naughty Vicar’s wife when, hurt and angry, she went to the newspaper about his antics. He lost his job, and no doubt gave its readers something to snigger at over their cornflakes - but I found myself praying about a broken marriage, their children and his parishioners.
And if anyone did accidentally drop anything under the hedge because they wanted to know what I thought about it – well, now you know.