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Nigel

The more I think about this more the more angry I am becoming. The Vicar is the only person who has the power to hire and fire. He is the person you should talk to about such underhand methods from the PCC. N

 

This is not quite correct, Nigel. A vicar (or rector) has not had sole discretion to either hire or dismiss an organist since Canon Law was changed several years ago. It is necessary for the PCC to ratify the decision of the incumbent - as others have also written.

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"Mission Critical"

 

This is not a hymn book I have come across. It sounds excellent though and I look forward to being able to endorse it heartily.

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Guest Barry Williams
This is not quite correct, Nigel. A vicar (or rector) has not had sole discretion to either hire or dismiss an organist since Canon Law was changed several years ago. It is necessary for the PCC to ratify the decision of the incumbent - as others have also written.

 

 

The change requiring the agreement of the PCC was made at the joint behest of Lionel Dakers and Robert Runcie. It had been brewing for years due to a number of clergy who had sacked organists in post immediately after their induction service. However, the matter was brought to a head with the dismissal of H.A.Bate from St James, Muswell Hill. It was this that led directly to the alteration in the law in 1986.

 

Barry Williams

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In any case, what qualifications does the churchwarden have to judge the music of the church? How can (s)he know how well you - or for that matter any of the other staff - are doing your jobs? The process may end up judging not competence, but merely "what we like".

 

My very first thought, when reading this thread, was the appraisals would be used as a method of introducing styles of music not previously played/sung. I hope I’m wrong.

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This is an interesting thread...

 

I had my first appraisal some years back and thought of it as potentially a very threatening experience. A friend of mine steered me towards using a form (see this for a template) which you amend to suit your own job and then fill in and give to your employer 48 hours ahead of the event. This gives you a marvellous opportunity to list all the good and bad points of the last year (or more) as well as putting on paper your ideas for ways things can change in the future.

 

My experience of using this was actually very positive and puts YOU in charge of the event, leaving your employer in the position of needing to put in place training and support as required. There may, of course, be information to feed back the other way, but it's a much safer and more measured way of transferring this information than waiting for a major disagreement to blow up.

 

Also, importantly, a set of notes needs to be written and agreed by both parties after the event. This should include time scales for agreed changes in both directions.

 

Finally, if such an experience starts to become threatening, it should also be quite appropriate for you to insist upon having a third party present...usually a very good incentive to keep things factual.

 

Hope that's useful.

 

Adrian

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The more I think about this more the more angry I am becoming.

 

 

I share that anger. Whilst there may be a case for formal appraisals in the case of full-time professional organists, such as cathedral musicians, it cannot be appropriate for those who, week by week, year by year, give of their time and skills for a miserable £1,800 per annum or whatever, most of them in a honest and humble belief in the 'mission of music' in the worship of Almighty God.

 

Spare us, good, Lord, from mission statements, key performance indicators, core skills, competencies, objectives, targets, synergies and all other ghastly manifestations of present-day management-speak.

 

It strikes me as a pretty poor sort of incumbent who resorts to, or acquiesces in, such insensitive and heavy-handed tactics. One of the core skills of such people, surely, is an ability to deal with all sorts and conditions of men. One obvious way of showing their (Christian) duty of care over their 'employees' - including the organist - is by regular meetings, with a degree of formality (or otherwise) decided by mutual agreement.

 

PCCs these days seem all too often to be getting above themselves, with touchy-feely incumbents too scared to gainsay them instead of showing proper leadership and guidance.

 

One way of countering any requirement for formal appraisals is to insist on the ultimate weapon of full 360-degree assessment of all concerned, paid and unpaid, so that such self-important busybodies are forced to contemplate their own unlovely image.

 

JS

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I share that anger. Whilst there may be a case for formal appraisals in the case of full-time professional organists, such as cathedral musicians, it cannot be appropriate for those who, week by week, year by year, give of their time and skills for a miserable £1,800 per annum or whatever, most of them in a honest and humble belief in the 'mission of music' in the worship of Almighty God.

 

 

But surely there must be some feedback system, otherwise we will never grow in our roles?

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But surely there must be some feedback system, otherwise we will never grow in our roles?

 

I can see the point of some form of feedback, but question the ability of the average church goer (PCC or not) to appraise a DOM/Organist.

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But surely there must be some feedback system, otherwise we will never grow in our roles?

 

 

==============================

 

 

I'm just very happy not to have any sort of contract at all.

 

I turn up, I play, I go and everyone seems perfectly content.

 

It's the difference, I suppose, between a situation where one is a servant, and where one is regarded as a respected equal.

 

Perhaps a "contract" is, by definition, a "mission statement" of mutual mistrust, which assumes that things can and will go wrong, and further assumes that there must be both a machinery for getting rid of people or for establishing a pecking-order of authority and control.

 

I find those definitive moments of breakdown far more appealing: like letting down the vicar's tyres, or going after him like a pit-bull terrier.

 

In fact, I recall one particularly defining moment when a Yorkshire organist; completely fed-up with what the vicar was trying to do to the music, decided to have it out with him.

 

After a furious argument, the vicar bestowed his benediction with the words, "Peace on you."

 

The organist narrowed his eyes, and replied, "Aye, and peace on you too mate!"

 

With that, he left.

 

MM

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========================

 

Now here you have to be careful, because a contract can be varied or even rescinded unilaterally, so long as due notice is given. Also, that can be done verbally or in writing, so you could be on sticky ground.

 

No, a far better way of dealing with this is to enter into the spirit of political correctness, management speak and the master/servant relationship. The trick is to appear to be utterly grovelling, but at the same time, raise the stakes a little, by elevating yourself to an impossibly intellectual level. Management speak is also a distinct advantage, and can intimidate even the most pompous.

 

So perhaps the first thing is to get all your ducks in a row before the off, by responding in writing to the suggestion that you welcome the opportunity of undergoing an annual appraisal.

 

This is what you write:-

 

Dear Vicar,

 

Our Lord gave us the definitive mission statement and as we are constantly reminded each time we bring to the table the sacraments, we are but servants to our core beliefs. It is with that sense of duty that I welcome the opportunity of impacting upon the proposed appraisal, and sense a positive opportunity of being able to enter into interfacial collaboration in a pro-active way: ever mindful that we must always seek the very highest incentivisation in taking our worship to the next level, and at the same time, freely discuss any issues which may arise.

 

Naturally, at the time of my appointment, it was established that I had the requisite core competences, and I do not consider that there has since been any downgrading which may require correctivisation or which may have proved actionable. I am also firmly of the opinion that at the time of your own appointment, and that of the Churchwarden, better men could not be found.

 

Ever aware that there is no 'I' in the word 'team,' my position will always be that of the faithful servant.

 

I am not too aloof to recognise that I may be able to benefit from reiterative training, which may even bring the benefit of a little clear blue-sky thinking and an enhanced facility to think outside the box, but as in all such initiatives, there would be an inevitable cost in improving the knowledge base; the ballpark figure of which is currently unknown to me.

 

Maybe now is the time to push the envelope, move the goalposts, improve the deliverables and maximise the mission critical in a spirit of faith and charity to achieve a win win situation.

MM

 

 

To be honest who the hell does th PCC of this Church think they are ? Are they that elite that if one does not measure up to their standards they can get rid of u ? I hardly think the Church Warden is the best person to appraised your musical standards of excellence. What would they know ? And u wonder why clergy and Organists don't get on . I have a suggestion sacked the PCC ! They are nothing but meddling manic depressives and spend most of the their boring meetings spouting rubbish. The only person that u should be accountable too is your Vicar/Minster of your Church.

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To be honest who the hell does th PCC of this Church think they are ? Are they that elite that if one does not measure up to their standards they can get rid of u ? I hardly think the Church Warden is the best person to appraised your musical standards of excellence. What would they know ? And u wonder why clergy and Organists don't get on . I have a suggestion sacked the PCC ! They are nothing but meddling manic depressives and spend most of the their boring meetings spouting rubbish. The only person that u should be accountable too is your Vicar/Minster of your Church.

 

 

============================

 

 

Exactly!

 

:)

 

MM

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I notice too that some other writers are as inflamed about this thread as myself. Organists are Ministers of Music and should work in total partnership with the Priest/Vicar/Minister/ or who ever. We must always keep a structured approach to these difficulties and sometimes there is no option but to leave after all avenues have been properly explored. Nevertheless, sometimes there is just no professional alternative but to depart in as dignified manner as possible. I, for one, sacked the Parish Priest and PCC of my village church (Burbage in Leicestershire) when they called a meeting to discuss the throwing out of the organ and replacing it with an electronic substitute. (They had just got over £4,000 for rain insurance on the organ and they preferred to add to it and buy electronic) A note was left on the organ at the beginning of a service informing me that there would be a meeting taking place immediately afterwards to which I was invited but was to be allowed to speak for only two minutes. I attended and spoke for a little longer on the subject as much money was involved and because nobody had played, heard nor seen the device that they were wanting to purchase that day. As they employed me to Direct the Music I thought it my job to fully give my adive to them. The only communication from the Bradford company was a letter saying how much I would enjoy playing it! Having given the opening concert of the Walker Rebuild (overseen by Mr Fowler of these hallowed pages), I thought it only right to stick up for all those people who had so fervently raised money to have the restored organ in the 1960's. I was hounded from the meeting by the Parish Priest when I spoke of the building as being "my church". That I was almost only one of the people there who had actually been baptized in the font that stood nearby, - you know (and so did he) what I meant. But I was shouted down by the Reverend Fr that it was "not your church but our church". So I sacked them for unprofessional conduct and most Sundays since 1991 I have sat and heard an execrable racket on a device that couldn't even be played decently until New English Hymnals raised the thing up so the player's legs could get under the lower manual.

I only took on the job because the Rector sacked the previous man and twisted my arm to take over and help them out (I was an ordinary member of the congregation sitting in the family pew at the front of the church - and still do). After leaving, a Churchwarden was sent to my home with a cheque for £25 and two bottles of wine to thank me for the five years of music-making that I had given them (two continental tours etc. and leaving them with a choir of 28 boys and 12 men) and the threat that "if you rock the boat the Rector would not be able to write you a helpful reference".

 

I relate this sorrowful story, to show that extraordinary happenings can happen anywhere - grand churches, cathedrals or lowly village churches where one has even gone to church in a mother's womb. At all times we must have a calm dignity and do our utmost to make our contributions to the liturgy as meaningful as possible. In return, we expect our endeavors to have a professional recognition - even if for the most part, it goes unsaid. It all should be a wonderful holy alliance. One rash comment from an ill-informed member of the laity to a minister can be an explosive charge and can fester until nothing can stop the consequences.

 

In hope and with best wishes,

Nigel

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But surely there must be some feedback system, otherwise we will never grow in our roles?

 

But an appraisal system is not primarily intended to produce feedback, helpful or otherwise. It is one more consequence of the deliberate killing off of the ethos of professionalism, as a consequence of the actions of all those politicians who actually believed that "game theory" really did reflect real life, specifically Margaret Thatcher but not only her. It used to be possible to say to those one was teaching words to the effect that "You should always do the best you can: you cannot do more, you should not do less." For those who aspire to implement this approach much of the rigmarole associated with appraisal systems (which presupposes you will identify and plan to address weaknesses in a systematic and organized fashion ) is totally meaningless, BECAUSE as soon as you identify a weakness or have an idea for how to improve your performance you implement it at once - you do not wait for the next annual meeting !!! That certainly does not mean that there is no scope for improvement or helpful and constructive criticism. But what it most emphatically does mean is that the individual being appraised is in no position to identify weaknesses and/or solutions since if he or she could do so then by definition that individual would not be doing his or her best!

 

Appraisal systems are part of a business culture where jargon rules OK, people seek to be rewarded for reinventing the wheel (and are offended when they are not) , and where "targets" rule everything else to the extent that it is often now considered far better practice to do x amount of work in a particular time even if it includes a number of botched or inadequately performed tasks than it is to do x-y amount all of which is perfectly properly done so that nothing needs to be done again!! There are undoubtedly business consultants around today who would have advised Michael Angelo that a couple of coats of brilliant white emulsion applied with a roller would be a far quicker job and produce a perfectly acceptable finish!

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... At all times we must have a calm dignity and do our utmost to make our contributions to the liturgy as meaningful as possible. In return, we expect our endeavors to have a professional recognition - even if for the most part, it goes unsaid.

Nigel, you have a wonderful way with words as well as music! You have gone right to the heart of the issue.

John C

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I notice too that some other writers are as inflamed about this thread as myself. Organists are Ministers of Music and should work in total partnership with the Priest/Vicar/Minister/ or who ever. We must always keep a structured approach to these difficulties and sometimes there is no option but to leave after all avenues have been properly explored. Nevertheless, sometimes there is just no professional alternative but to depart in as dignified manner as possible. I, for one, sacked the Parish Priest and PCC of my village church (Burbage in Leicestershire) when they called a meeting to discuss the throwing out of the organ and replacing it with an electronic substitute. (They had just got over £4,000 for rain insurance on the organ and they preferred to add to it and buy electronic) A note was left on the organ at the beginning of a service informing me that there would be a meeting taking place immediately afterwards to which I was invited but was to be allowed to speak for only two minutes. I attended and spoke for a little longer on the subject as much money was involved and because nobody had played, heard nor seen the device that they were wanting to purchase that day. As they employed me to Direct the Music I thought it my job to fully give my adive to them. The only communication from the Bradford company was a letter saying how much I would enjoy playing it! Having given the opening concert of the Walker Rebuild (overseen by Mr Fowler of these hallowed pages), I thought it only right to stick up for all those people who had so fervently raised money to have the restored organ in the 1960's. I was hounded from the meeting by the Parish Priest when I spoke of the building as being "my church". That I was almost only one of the people there who had actually been baptized in the font that stood nearby, - you know (and so did he) what I meant. But I was shouted down by the Reverend Fr that it was "not your church but our church". So I sacked them for unprofessional conduct and most Sundays since 1991 I have sat and heard an execrable racket on a device that couldn't even be played decently until New English Hymnals raised the thing up so the player's legs could get under the lower manual.

I only took on the job because the Rector sacked the previous man and twisted my arm to take over and help them out (I was an ordinary member of the congregation sitting in the family pew at the front of the church - and still do). After leaving, a Churchwarden was sent to my home with a cheque for £25 and two bottles of wine to thank me for the five years of music-making that I had given them (two continental tours etc. and leaving them with a choir of 28 boys and 12 men) and the threat that "if you rock the boat the Rector would not be able to write you a helpful reference".

 

I relate this sorrowful story, to show that extraordinary happenings can happen anywhere - grand churches, cathedrals or lowly village churches where one has even gone to church in a mother's womb. At all times we must have a calm dignity and do our utmost to make our contributions to the liturgy as meaningful as possible. In return, we expect our endeavors to have a professional recognition - even if for the most part, it goes unsaid. It all should be a wonderful holy alliance. One rash comment from an ill-informed member of the laity to a minister can be an explosive charge and can fester until nothing can stop the consequences.

 

In hope and with best wishes,

Nigel

 

I have heard stories like this so many times - it really can put one off getting involved in the first place. It's only when one works in a good and supportive set up where one's services are valued etc. that one realises how lucky one is! The trouble is there only needs to be a change of incumbent or warden............

 

AJJ

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But an appraisal system is not primarily intended to produce feedback, helpful or otherwise.

 

You mean appraisal systems in your experience? "Appraisal system" is just two words, not a set in stone process the same the world over - it can be whatever you make it, good or bad.

 

I think we're all leaping on the negative connotations of the phrase. I actually really enjoy appraisals in the work place - it gives me a chance to not only hear about the things I do well, but also to talk about what I can do better. I can also air my frustrations about anything I like, and often get stuff done about it.

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You mean appraisal systems in your experience? "Appraisal system" is just two words, not a set in stone process the same the world over - it can be whatever you make it, good or bad.

 

I think we're all leaping on the negative connotations of the phrase. I actually really enjoy appraisals in the work place - it gives me a chance to not only hear about the things I do well, but also to talk about what I can do better. I can also air my frustrations about anything I like, and often get stuff done about it.

Couldn't agree more (see also lucasorg's comments earlier). Used well (as discussed earlier) it is a great opportunity for the appraisee to work with the appraiser to agree helpful actions on both sides.

 

Surely we'd all cheer any PCC that wants to do things properly (I assume we don't support the historic amateurism of such bodies) - and the music is often one of the largest expenses and therefore something they do need to get to grips with.

 

True professionals are always interested in ways to improve. There's only three reasons to fear the process:

 

1. The appraiser isn't up to the job - and I think between us we've identified many strategies to deal with this - again it is wise to sort this out at the beginning rather than a response to an unfortunate 'review'.

2. You can't manage yourself well enough to handle such a conversation - in which case bring a friend and ask that the PCC pay for you to learn how to do so.

3. Its a set up. In which case you're stuffed whatever the rationale as earlier stories show (And yes Nigel, I've sacked a church too!).

 

Re-reading the original preamble I don't see evidence that nf's PCC have a hidden agenda - its much more likely that they are just rather inexperienced in the matter and need some (tactful) direction.

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Guest Barry Williams
This is an interesting thread...

 

I had my first appraisal some years back and thought of it as potentially a very threatening experience. A friend of mine steered me towards using a form (see this for a template) which you amend to suit your own job and then fill in and give to your employer 48 hours ahead of the event. This gives you a marvellous opportunity to list all the good and bad points of the last year (or more) as well as putting on paper your ideas for ways things can change in the future.

 

My experience of using this was actually very positive and puts YOU in charge of the event, leaving your employer in the position of needing to put in place training and support as required. There may, of course, be information to feed back the other way, but it's a much safer and more measured way of transferring this information than waiting for a major disagreement to blow up.

 

Also, importantly, a set of notes needs to be written and agreed by both parties after the event. This should include time scales for agreed changes in both directions.

 

Finally, if such an experience starts to become threatening, it should also be quite appropriate for you to insist upon having a third party present...usually a very good incentive to keep things factual.

 

Hope that's useful.

 

Adrian

 

 

Adrian's suggestion is most helpful. Please note that he refers to the employer. In the Church of England this is the minister. It is not the PCC and therefore the appraisal is done by the minister, not a churchwarden, or indeed anyone other than the minister.

 

I strongly endorse the suggestion that detailed notes are taken. Those notes should be typed up as soon as possible and passed to the minister for formal agreement. If the minister fails to dispute them they will stand as evidence of what has gone on.

 

It is regrettable to have to write in such legal terms about church business, but as has been demonstrated on this thread, the clergy are not always the best employers.

 

Barry Williams

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There's only three reasons to fear the process
I'm sorry, but I am still dubious. A fourth reason is that it implies that relationships are not such that any disagreements can be handled informally to everyone's satisfaction. There are situations in which staff appraisals are necessary and I can see that, if they are done properly they can be valuable, but I really do not think Neil is in such a situation.

 

He has told us that he has regular meetings with his priest at which issues are discussed. If an appraisal system is to be introduced it must be the priest who conducts it, but if the current system ain't bust, why fix it? Only, I would suggest, if Neil feels he might one day need evidence to bolster a court case should things go pear-shaped. Then indeed some documentation would be useful.

 

But of one thing I am sure - it is none of the PCC's businesss.

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... the music is often one of the largest expenses...

 

There's only three reasons to fear the process...

 

I would dispute that the music is often one of the largest expenses. Insurance, heating and lighting bills and printing, among much else, would surely outstrip many times the average parish salary and average parish tuning bill. Organs probably require little more in the way of long-term expense in terms of rebuilds than, say, mending a roof, re-wiring, installing a PA system, renewing the hymn books or keeping glass in the windows.

 

As well as Vox's fourth reason, there's still the basic premise that it may not be reasonable to demand certain standards (which, nine times out of ten, will be based on the personal preference of one or two people), especially of someone who is effectively working as a volunteer. If there are any meaningful benchmarks which can be objectively assessed, then perhaps it is less to be feared. But I cannot think of any, not even anything as mundane as speed of hymns, which can be strictly objective. Music is subjective - that's the whole point.

 

Quality often goes unnoticed, but if mediocrity has a loud enough voice then it will triumph. This process would appear to me to facilitate that, rather than eliminate it, which should be the aim.

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New boy here: apologies for gatecrashing the party.

 

The idea of an appraisal in most churches really does seem to be a case of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but if one’s church is paying a fairly generous whack then some sort of dialogue between the department heads and the (notional) management seems not unreasonable. Nevertheless NS’s experience (wherever it was) does suggest that nasty things in the woodshed can manifest themselves even in the most upmarket of venues. In fact, a friend who was also on the music staff at NS’s church in Gloucester (whichever one to which we’re referring) had a very similar experience.

 

The calm and measured approach of lucas.org ought surely to solve most problems real or imaginary; his template reminded me of another friend who was handed appraisal forms by a headmaster hell bent on destroying yet another Amazonian rain forest. In answer to the question “What do you consider your weaknesses?” he wrote “Apple crumble, beaujolais nouveau and my inability to spend my time filling in forms like this”. Whether or not you adopt a similar approach is for you alone to judge.

 

David Harrison

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The change requiring the agreement of the PCC was made at the joint behest of Lionel Dakers and Robert Runcie. It had been brewing for years due to a number of clergy who had sacked organists in post immediately after their induction service. However, the matter was brought to a head with the dismissal of H.A.Bate from St James, Muswell Hill. It was this that led directly to the alteration in the law in 1986.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

That is very intereting, Barry. My ex-sister in law and her husband were - are? - members of the congregation at St James, and I had to endure a great deal of happy-clappiness whenever I went to stay with them. I don't ever remember the organ being used, though. I think it was a rather fine 3 manual but I can't remember who built it. Certainly whenever I went to St James there were a lot of guitars and drums and sincerity but little musical finesse.

 

I wonder if the vicar who I used to know there was the sacker of H.A.B.?

 

Peter

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You mean appraisal systems in your experience? "Appraisal system" is just two words, not a set in stone process the same the world over - it can be whatever you make it, good or bad.

 

Yes |I do mean in my experience but not simply as experienced by me. My personal experience was basically innocuous if entirely lacking in utility. I never met any university teacher of my generation who thought they had derived any benefit at all from the process. Obviously I have not met every university teacher of my generation. But I should ,of course, have introduced my remarks with "A great many apraisal systems..." rather than appearing to claim that all were identical.

 

I am delighted for those whose experience has been more positive : it may well be helpful to those whose concern is career development rather than intellectual satisfaction, the motivation for my becoming an academic. What one perceives as, and indeed what actually is, the objective of a particular appraisal process will undoubtedly influence the reaction to it However "it can be whatever you make it" surely can only be an accurate description if the you is plural and applies to both appraiser and appraisee . I cannot understand how the appraisee on his/her own can create an objectively good experience out of a flawed process whose stated and real objectives are entirely different, although it can, I suppose, be made to serve the function of personal character development.

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That is very intereting, Barry. My ex-sister in law and her husband were - are? - members of the congregation at St James, and I had to endure a great deal of happy-clappiness whenever I went to stay with them. I don't ever remember the organ being used, though. I think it was a rather fine 3 manual but I can't remember who built it. Certainly whenever I went to St James there were a lot of guitars and drums and sincerity but little musical finesse.

 

I wonder if the vicar who I used to know there was the sacker of H.A.B.?

 

Peter

 

 

=======================

 

 

Harrison & Harrison Ltd.

 

MM

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