The Ministry of St Peter's
‘In the call of God the whole fabric of one’s life is woven.’
Of Martyrs, Monks and Mystics p 142
A little while ago I found myself saying to our Vicar, Fr Hugh, I don’t work in the Bookroom at St Peter’s, I work in the Bookroom contained within St Peter’s.
This difference may seem subtle, but the more I have thought about it, the more it makes sense. Let me try to explain.
We are a bookshop that primarily sells religious books and church supplies. But, in the course of any day a person will come in and ask for food or money. What time is the breakfast programme open? There are people who need restitution from seeing their specialist across the road at the 'Eye and Ear Hospital', others simply need to talk because they are lonely and live alone. Sometimes I need to contact the Vicar because a person wishes for a medal to be blessed, or asks to speak with a priest. Or they need to know where the Parish Office is to make a hall booking, discuss parish matters with Kosta, our Parish Administrator. People also seek to know if the church is open, or why does the entrance seem to be at the back of the church, or ask the date of the next Institute for Spiritual Studies seminar, what times are the church services.
People like to tell us things: did we know that we are hanging our flag upside down from the church. So this becomes a discussion about the martyrdom of St Peter. Generations of grandparents and great-grandparents have been married at St Peter’s. Colin Holden’s history of the church is invaluable to show them; but mostly people just want someone on site to know that recent family research revealed that great-grandfather Arthur went to school here. Or, Great Aunt Matilda acted in the Pilgrim Theatre when it was operating in Maynard House. In May this year someone from Roadworks Victoria wanted to know if there were any weddings coming up because there were some very noisy roadwork the workmen needed to undertake. Supplies from Officeworks or boxes of paper towels or Altar wine are often delivered to the shop when the parish office is closed. After 2pm we are the only port of call for visitors on the premises.
The office has a message bank so people can leave phone messages direct when they need to. David, our Verger who lives on site, is usually around so I can call him if someone comes in to the shop to let me know that there is a person behaving inappropriately in the church. I call David too if there is a person behaving aggressively in the shop. David swears to me he has never read a book in his life, so he knows that when I ring to let him know a book he has ordered has come in, it’s because there’s a situation unfolding in the shop I don’t feel I can manage. It’s coded language. I haven’t had to use it much. The first time I used it unfortunately I hadn’t told him that it was code - but I was so desperate to surreptitiously communicate that I needed help in the shop that it was all I could think of. I knew it would work because he would come over just to check out that I hadn’t gone crazy. I can ring Fr Hugh too, who also lives on site, but he is often out and about and will get back to me if