Imagine being given this task:
· here is a substantial six figure sum of money
· go and find a house with at least three public rooms and four bedrooms
· it would be good if it were in a street where visitors can park nearby
· preferably without a lot of steps to the front or back door
· ideally modern, in good condition and easy to maintain
Does that sound simple enough?
Perhaps in some places it is. However, the modern trend to combine the kitchen, dining area and “family” space into what is technically one room means that it isn’t all that easy to fulfil the criteria above.
That was the task of the six people who were appointed by the Kirk Sessions of Meadowside St Paul’s and St Andrew’s to find a new manse, which they would purchase jointly for the new minister (and his or her family, if applicable).
It sounds like fun! But the novelty began to wear off as it became apparent that such houses were hard to find. They would be ideal in some respects, but totally unsuitable in others. Sometimes a drive along the street was enough to evoke a definite “No, not that one!” – that saved time on viewing, but it was a little bit dispiriting sometimes too.
We were also looking for something within a few miles from the two churches and not, as one house was described, “halfway to Carnoustie”.
In some ways it was interesting. Does anyone these days use their garage to keep their car? Or is it simply a dumping ground for the stuff we don’t need in the house? When did anyone pull any weeds out here?? Can you really live with that wallpaper? Every day?? Don’t you find the traffic noise rather intrusive? Where exactly is the sea from this window?? Do you think there’s anything nasty behind here?
On the plus side, these non-starters did help to tighten up our ideas of what was acceptable and what wasn’t. And socially, it was a good way for the two sets of searchers to get to know one another. By the end of the process, we might have been able to choose a house for each person in the group, thanks to the views which had been expressed along the way!
Seriously, though, this was time well spent. While we have the privilege of choosing our own place to live, albeit with financial constraints, our new minister has no such choice. So the task was to find a house which would be suitable to live in, to work from, to bring up children, to invite friends, to accommodate pets … A house without such a large garden that it would be problematic for the non-gardening clergy. A house that would be easy to access with a wheelchair, buggy or other walking aid. A house that could become a home.
And now we have found it! And bought it! We have the keys from the solicitor. And now we have brand new locks and keys. Bits and pieces needing attention are being attended to. All we need now is an occupant, or several!