The Sunday Next Before Advent is extremely crucial, it seems, for the Scottish Episcopal Church. We are all given, around this time, a form which needs to be filled in, and it's all about our numbers. It's our Annual Returns, and amongst all sorts of rather searching questions, it asks us how many communicants we had on the Sunday Next Before Advent.
These numbers are sent to the General Synod Office, and will appear in print for the whole world to see sometime next year before General Synod. Of course, clergy being as they are, we get rather paranoid about this. I mean, what will people think if we have only 30 good folk on this Sunday, especially if we are capable of getting 70 on a good day? Do we make it up, or tell a little white lie? Of course not! We're trusted and respectable people and who cares how many you get on a winter morning in November anyway?
With that in mind, my soul went "eek!" when three of my trusty 9am service were missing this morning. Three can mean a great difference, you know! I was almost running up the High Street, knocking on doors demanding to know why they have a cold, or how they dare to sleep in/visit family for the weekend/decide to have a Sunday off!! Don't they realise my numbers are important? The bishop looks at this stuff, for goodness sake!
I'm dreading the 11am. Just hope everyone brings their grannies!
Of course, the Provost of St Mary's has the right idea. He's arranged three baptisms for this morning! Now count that pal!