The life of a vicar can only be imagined if you are not acquainted with one. Stretching the imagination may as well do no justice to reality but reading what Grace Michael has in The Vicar is a good place to begin.
The memoir-biographic presentation is apt and proffers opportunity for everyone to delve into living moments of a servant in the vineyard of God.
Michael is the fourth child in a family of seven. Her story is in memory of her father who served in the capacity of Vicar, a journey he began in his fifties.. Most part of what she recalls about him from the days of service till his dying moments are explored all in a stretch of 60 chapters and 157 pages.
The story is lightly told in straight language, sprinkled all over with pieces of vernacular, which necessitates a glossary at the end.
Without frills, we are introduced to the Vicar as he is addressed all through the story. He is in his study at St. Barth’s Church preparing for a service before the sexton arrives to deliver a message from the venerable. He leaves for the meeting where he is handed a letter notifying him of his transfer to another parish.
He is well received at the new parish by villagers and parishioners. The vicar and his family, having moved around a lot did not take very long to settle in the new home. It was the usual practice in missionary life but it comes at a price for mama yard and the children sometimes because the effect on her job and the children’s schooling was sizeable.
The vicarage referred to as the Yard makes it easy to confer the title Mama Yard on the Vicar’s wife. Mama Yard has to stay in town away from the vicarage with the boys, Aji and Jeje to keep up with her job as a civil servant while the boys continued schooling because it appears changing their schools at the time would be detrimental as they had done that four times already.
As the day goes by, the Vicar makes new friends and enemies. His personal, family and religious life is scrutinised and the narrator doesn’t spare any detail.
Once, he and his entire family escaped a poisoning attempt from the stern looking neighbour who lived opposite the church.
The Vicar’s boys had overpowered his daughter in a duel and he promised to deal with them. The Vicar’s pet dog had eaten the poisoned beans pudding as the Vicar had ordered it be thrown away on the landfill.
This did not deter the Vicar from being hospitable to everyone who visited. He was a father to all and owed loyalty even to detractors. The period of staying at king’s church follows through normal family life only intercepted by visitors to the vicarage. Some visits were peculiar with drama while at other times, they were just downright mind-boggling. In the end, the children, Oja, Aji, Jeje, lala and Ola had a good laugh if they thought it was nothing too serious.
A new bishop was announced; another transfer date was set for the vicar to move on after nine years to St. Michael. This time, the Vicar was not so lucky with the parishioners. The members were not so friendly and enlightened as the former parish.
He had no choice but to accept and treat them with kindness. On Boxing Day, there was a strange occurrence that jolted the Vicar’s family. There was a loud band on the door. The children were still awake so they went to find out who it was. The response made them panic and they could only think of calling the Oba’s contact.
The next day they were told it was the security guards that had come to pay the Vicar a Christmas visit at that unholy time of the night!
Whether it was because of some agitations somewhere about who was head of where, there was always a reason to keep moving. The Vicar having stayed seven years had to be transferred again to another parish and another which was the last. This place happens to be where he spent his last days. St. Andrew 11.
The last few chapters tell us more about the Vicar’s relationship with his extended family. He mediated in family disputes and showed concern for everyone. He felt sad whenever things were going wrong and the human side of him became surfaced much. His personal troubles were there too but he never let it weigh him down neither
did he let it distract his servant duties. He loved pounded yam so much he could eat it all day if only there was someone who loves pounding, as much he wanted.
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His life isn’t spared of antagonism from superiors. Key members on the order of his boss had petitioned him. The allegations did not bother on misconduct on any level; they were merely cooked stories just to get him out before retirement age.
When news of the Vicar’s illness spread like wild fire, everyone came around to be with him. He kept going in and out of the hospital for some time. He attended service but rested more often. On one of such visits, he prayed for all of his children before they left. That was the last time they saw the Vicar. His life ended in service to humanity.
Beyond the author’s conviction, the story is a tribute to the lives of living and deceased workers in the vineyard who are dedicated to the call. The Vicar’s life is exemplary and worthy of emulation in courage, faith, compassion and commitment.
Title: The Vicar, Author: Grace Michael, Year: 2018, Publisher: Lightning Source Ltd