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Archbishop Michael Peers who recently died, was for many years the respected Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. He and I were contemporaries and went through various appointments in early curacies and then parishes; then he to Bishop and Archbishop. I eventually became Dean in two Cathedrals. All of this was what used to be called the Cursus Honorum. No, it didn't mean some form of curse! In Latin it means the course or career track. Much of this kind of neat linear series of promotions began to die out around the 60s, as many things did.

However, it is for his wisdom and subtle wit that I recall Michael. And within that wit I recall one of his wittiest moments. It was about the parish I was in at the time, incidentally my first.

The scene shifts to Huntley in the Ottawa Valley in 1960, I’m all bushytailed and eager to change the world. A few things about it. It has three churches. This meant in those highly organized days that it has three of everything. Julius Caesar would have loved it. Remember from your skimpy Latin (mine is). Julius was not a modest man. He wrote six books about his Gallic Wars, and we had to do a few of them in boarding school. Julius’ first statement became famous. His opening sentence was "Omnia Gallia divisa est in tres partes" (which you can easily guess at), and so was the parish of Huntley. Three choirs, three choirmistresses, three graveyards, three vestries. Three treasurers, three vestry clerks. Three Sunday services. Everything except three rectors, but at the venerable age of 40 I loved every minute of it.

There came a time soon after we arrived - wife Paula and two small girls 4 and 2 - when the parish told me that they were thinking of planning a hall for the increasing life of the parish.

The question was, where to build it?  Which church had the right? Instant straightening of backs and reasonably friendly discussions! Problem was that Christ Church down the Third Line was the parish church but the village a few miles away on the Transcanada has St. James’ the newer and stone church. St. John up the highway was quite small and had no pretensions to greatness but kept a close eye on not being left out. Heaven knows how many meetings, cups of tea and whatever. It's a long story but in the end a happy one.

Suffice it to say that St. James’ met and strongly voted yes. Then Christ Church did, and it went the same way. St. John’s was last and most problematic. The meeting was in the house of their churchwarden's mother, and it had become well known that her vote for the new hall would be only over her dead body. This was worrying because she was the parish matriarch.

There were fifteen around the parlour table in the big farmhouse. Including, the Local MLA, his brother, equally significant in the parish, the proprietors of the farms whose families were parishioners, Paula, my wife. (By the way she and our hostess the matriarch sat together.)

Eventually, chat died down, heads were bowed, suitable Biblical text read by yours truly as rector. The Bible began by "Except the Lord build...the builders build it but in vain," a wicked imp within suggested I put a gloss on the reading to the effect that if the Lord was building this then why did it matter so much where it would be built. But I resisted.

Finally, the moment. Paper and pens distributed. The question was asked if St. John's vestry would join the other two churches of the parish. I've long forgotten the exact wording. In time the voting was collected and taken into the kitchen by the MLA and the churchwarden. The wait began. People looked everywhere but at each other. The report was handed to me. I was flabbergasted. A unanimous YES!

Relief all round, but wait, this meant the impossible had happened. The matriarch must have voted yes after all her dire threats. The surprise was delight, the approval loud and long. Our hostess held up her hands. To cries of "But how? Why? We all thought etc etc! Our hostess signalled for quiet. Then, with a hint of a resigned smile, she turned to Paula said very deliberately. (This I do remember exactly.) "But how could I vote NO when I was sitting beside the rector's wife." There was a moment of silence, everyone gave her loud, long applause and family members swept in with trays of tea and good things to munch.

End of story. Well, no, because I want to tell you what Michael Peers said, and he was a wise man, referring to all this. He said "there is a certain kind of parish where if the greatest genius in Christendom became rector only three people more than normal would be in church. If on the other hand if the greatest fool in Christendom became rector of the same parish only three people less would be at church! Have I not said many times that the past is a most wonderfully interesting place?