A Norfolk parishioner and long-term volunteer was so offended at being asked to give up role she’s held in church since 1939 that she threatened to sue the local priest.
Irene Bagley has been running the parish office on her own since the previous assistant went off to war. She has steadfastly resisted any offers of help or retraining.
’This office would fall apart without me.’ Said Irene. ’Only I know where I keep the carbon paper for the newsletters.’
Irene, who answers the phone ’Good morning, Norwich 3142?’ has gradually expanded her role since the early days. She now cooks all meals for the Priest, runs the sacramental programmes, reads and is Eucharistic Minister at Mass, runs the Children’s Liturgy and chooses the music for the Sunday Masses. The parish holds the record of 4,758 consecutive Sunday Masses with ’Sweet Heart of Jesus’ as a Communion hymn.
Fr Tristan Sparrowhawk, Parish Priest, commented, ‘I inherited Irene from the previous Priest who didn’t like to rock the boat. He tried offering to type up the newsletter but he ended up eating over-boiled Brussel sprouts for a month. No-one doubts Irene’s enthusiasm and the debt the parish owes to her but the longer she is with us, the smaller that debt becomes. I’ve taken legal advice and it is possible to sack someone from a voluntary position so I’ve written out a plan for the next Priest to follow. I’m off to Cambridge in summer and it’s not fair to make any big changes before he arrives.’
When asked for a comment, local Bishop Henry Sherwood said ‘A parish is a finely balanced ecosystem. In every parish there are normally at least three Irenes and they keep each other under control, sort of like markets and competition. But here, she’s got a monopoly and had been allowed to take over. She’s like Japanese knotweed.’
Mrs Bagley is still in posts.