At the end of Mass this morning the priest asked us to sit, as he usually does, so he can deliver the notices. After a brief remark about a mistake in the Bulletin ("The Ecumenical Service will be at 6.30 this evening") he moved on to mention that "Some concerns have been expressed within the Parish."
I guess I was expecting some feedback on fundraising for the roof fund or the like. Far from it: what came next was truly astonishing. Here is what the priest had to say.
"Concerns have been expressed within the Parish, and of course we have to take concerns seriously. Particularly when the concerns are about me."
At this point the congregation noticeably stiffened.
"I hear the some people are concerned about the style of preaching from the altar. Well, I now need to know what the whole Parish thinks. If concerns are widespread then of course I will resign."
At this point you could have heard a pin drop.
"If the problem is confined to just part of the Parish, then other measures will be necessary. Now, please stand."
And with that there was the final prayer and hymn and the Mass was ended.
The priest delivered this bombshell in a perfectly matter-of-fact voice, without the slightest trace of emotion.
As we walked towards the newspaper shop I asked Clare whether this was normal behaviour for a priest. In a lifetime of Mass-attendance, she said, she had never heard the like.
As I write this with the Sunday afternoon light fading, Clare is playing online scrabble with Alex (who is in Reading), with Skype providing the voice channel.
"Are you winning, Clare?"