THIS ISLAND LIFE Wacky clerics are a relatively new phenomenon and the very phrase tends to make me shudder a little.
It is shorthand for unconventional men and women of the cloth and conjures up images of earnest young curates with John Lennon glasses, Lord Longford hair and a predilection for jeans and plimsolls.
Religious wackiness often involves the introduction of guitars and bongo drums as musical accompaniment at evensong, and Nativities during which Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem on a motorbike and sidecar.
When I was carrying out my regular visits to various priests in and around Ryde during the 60s, while learning my trade as a cub reporter on the old IW Times, I encountered many different characters, none of whom could be remotely described as wacky.
But they were, by and large, an affable bunch and those who spring immediately to mind include James Buckett, at St Helens, a delightful man with whom I kept in contact for many years afterwards.
Then there was Clifford Targett, at Binstead, a quietly polite and efficient chap, and John Denington, at Brading, who had a formidable air of James Robertson Justice about him.
All provided a direct contrast to the Rev Martin Caton, from St Michael’s, Ryde, a cold and aloof individual who gave the impression religion had been invented to provide him with an agreeable career path through life.
He was the complete antithesis of the Rev Marie Attwood, who appears to have been managed out of her position as minister at Ryde Methodist Church.
Though she has been described by some as ‘wacky’, the Rev Attwood was, in fact, merely conducting herself in a manner likely to give religion a good name for a change.
She opened up the church to the homeless, drug-users and other disadvantaged people — which would certainly have met with the approval of Jesus but was frowned upon by some church elders, who prefer to keep the building as their own little sanitised fiefdom.
One of the church trustees, a furious gentleman called Miles Clarke, fell back on the scriptures as he sought to condemn what he regarded as a gross betrayal of a good person.
‘The removal of Marie Attwood from our church and the Ryde community is another nail in God’s coffin,” he thundered, while simultaneously giving the worrying impression God is dead.
‘A decision by Pharisees once again crucifies love by petty jealousies,’ he added for good measure, after further ransacking the Good Book for inspiration.
But we get the point. Someone who had managed to reinvigorate a church (no easy task in this day and age) and displayed what are believed to be basic Christian traits such as charity and compassion, had been elbowed out by those not fit to iron her surplice.
A big heart, it would appear, is no match for small minds.
Undead live on after apology
When I was informed Park of the Dead featured a lot of weirdoes wandering around Puckpool Park terrifying people with their mindless actions, I naturally thought the IW Council had embarked upon a road show.
However, it turns out to be a ‘live action theatrical horror experience’ in which a group of actors dress up as blood-stained zombies and utilise the naturally sinister surroundings of Puckpool after dark to provide some Halloween entertainment on the hoof.
However, when some of the show’s cast took part in Ryde’s illuminated carnival procession, covered in gore and wielding make-believe chainsaws, it was hardly surprising some little kids were terrified.
The protests of their parents, however, drew a rather sniffy response from Claire Kay, chairwoman of the carnival committee.
She said: ‘What people have to remember is that carnival is about pushing the boundaries and doesn’t have to be about pretty, light things.
‘The dancers from Rio don’t leave much to the imagination and nobody complains about that.’
Completely wrong on two levels, Claire.
Firstly, stations such as Channel 4 and MTV are about ‘pushing the boundaries’ — Ryde carnival procession isn’t.
Look up the definition of ‘carnival’ if you are in any doubt and you will find words such as ‘amusement’, ‘merrymaking’ and ‘revel’. Words such as ‘innovation’, ‘terrify’ and ‘frighten’ are conspicuous by their absence.
Secondly, three and four year olds faced with the juddering breasts and undulating buttocks of the Rio dancers are likely to gaze up at their parents with some bemusement.
However, the same little’uns finding themselves in the vicinity of the undead are likely to have mums and dads reaching for a new pack of Pampers.
Dan Gaches, of Park of the Dead, got it spot on when he quickly apologised to any youngsters who found their appearance upsetting, adding that that had not been their intention.
For that reason alone, he and the gang deserve your support at Puckpool Park in a few weeks’ time. Take a look at their website www.parkofthedead.co.uk to see what all the fuss is all about.