The house I live in is only six years old, but it was built in an area that was once, before the Reformation, monastic land. After the Dissolution, that land was sold on to private owners, of whom I'm the latest in a long line. But it did not come stringlessly. The monasteries had acquired rectorships to one or more churches, meaning that they were entitled to tithes from the church's parishioners, but also that they were liable to keep the chancel of the church in good repair. (Why just the chancel? I've no idea.) When the land was sold, those rights and liabilities were sold with it.
The right to tithes has long since ceased, but the liability to repair chancels continues, and will do so in perpetuity (or until some future government decides otherwise). In practice, churches seldom call on hapless householders to repair their chancels, but it does happen, and can be ruinously expensive. For this reason, most people (me included) take out a once-and-for-all insurance against that contingency when they buy the property. From memory, it cost me about £120, which seems quite a lot now, but against the background of the many apparently arbitrary sums large and small that one gets stuck with in the course of buying a house, appeared trifling at the time.
Still, it tickles me to think that I'm a rector (even if a lay one). I didn't choose the role - which means I suppose that it must be a vocation - but I'd like to make the most of it now I've got it. What can I do with this title? Will it get me a better seat in a restaurant? Can I administer extreme unction to small mammals? What are the possibilities?
- Speaking as a Rector...