Clergymen by Richard King

Story type: Essay

I always feel so sorry for clergymen–the clergymen who are inspired to their calling, not, of course the “professional” variety who are clergymen because they preferred the Church to the Stock Exchange. They carry with them wherever they go the mark of the professional servant of God, and it creates a prejudice, between them and those who really need their succour, which is almost unsurmountable. Many clergymen, I know, adore the trimmings of their profession–the pomps and vestments, the admiration of spinster ladies, and opportunity to shake the friendly finger at Mrs. Gubbins and regret that she hasn’t been seen in church lately–this same Mrs. Gubbins who works sixteen hours a day to bring up a large family in the greatest goodness and comfort her mother’s heart can supply, and, so it seems to me, lives her prayers–which is a far finer thing than merely uttering them in public and respectability. But the clergyman whose heart is in his work, who lives for the poor and needy, and finds no greater joy than in bringing joy into the lives of others, has to make those he wishes to forget first of all that he is a clergyman and not merely a man ready, as it were, to barter a bun for an attendance at church. Until he does this he cannot surmount that prejudice, that suspicion, and that atmosphere of unnaturalness without which no lasting comfort and good is ever done. For how can he live among the poor as one of the poor when at the same time he has to keep in the “good books” of the wealthy, who pay the pew rents, and the evil-minded “do-nothings,” who are ever ready to declare that he is demeaning himself and their Church when he breaks down the barrier of caste and position in his efforts to live and suffer and work as do the men and women he wishes to make happier and better? He can do it, if he possesses the right personality, but it is a fight which, for the most part, seems so hopeless as not to be worth while. You have only to watch the restrained jollity of his flock the moment a clergyman enters the room to realise the crust which he will have to break through in order to bring to light the jewel of human nature which really shines so brightly in the hearts of the very poor.

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