Chapter 56: Foul Play
I was trying to act honourably towards everyone. Those campaigning against me showed no such scruples.
The diocese had a common goal with Nick and Shirley's people. (They also seemed to resonate with each other, which I think came from a common “progressive” world view.) So they played a sort of game of tag, each helping the other to stir up strife in the parish. Let me give you just a few examples.
There was an election of synod representatives from every parish. I announced it as required and asked people to nominate. By the due date there were only the same number of nominations as places, so next Sunday I announced these “elected unopposed”.
Next vestry meeting I was accused of not announcing the election properly. The vestry sent off a letter to the diocese complaining about my actions and asking the diocese to investigate.
At the following month's vestry meeting transcripts of my announcements (sermons were recorded, but I did not know till then that everything I said was being recorded!) were produced (by one of Shirley's associates who ran the PA group! - there were many in her camp who were themselves honest and honourable but had been swayed by her propaganda)) which showed I had indeed made all the announcements to the letter of the rules.
The vestry could not do anything more to me in the face of this – but they didn't need to – the allegations had been made publicly and to the diocese and were never retracted!
One time I was called in to see the archbishop he told me that Shirley had threatened to sue over the letter I had sent her removing her from the music group. Next vestry meeting I reported this conversation. Peter (Shirley’s husband) jumped to his feet and called me a liar (again!) and assured the vestry that Shirley had never threatened to sue. So vestry wrote to the archbishop relaying all this and asking him to confirm or deny it.
The archbishop wrote back fanning the flames by saying he could not recall saying that and he could not think of any occasion when he could have said it to me. Seriously? He only had to check his diary to know that he had recently called me in to see him!
Interestingly he did put in his reply that he had checked his file and found a memorandum from the bishop which said: “Mr xxx (Shirley's husband Peter) has sought legal advice and has been told the letter is certainly a basis for legal action and that he should advise the archbishop that he intends to proceed.” (as I told the archbishop at the meeting, there was - as any lawyer would know - absolutely no basis for legal action! So I assume was a ruse to put pressure on the archbishop.)
This did not stop Peter getting up at the church AGM and accusing me of lying, because I had said that the archbishop told me that Shirley threatened to sue. “Shirley has never threatened to sue anyone!” purred Peter in to the microphone.
Each year we had to update the electoral roll. This is a roll of people who can vote at church meetings. Eligibility is pretty open. You just have to be over 18, attend the parish church services regularly, say “I am an Anglican” and declare you are not a member of any other church.
A number of people applied but said that they were still members of other denominations. As I was trying to “dot my i's and cross my t's” I asked the bishop what to do. He said they must be welcomed into the Anglican Church at a simple ceremony he would perform at the church. I had never bothered with this sort of formality before, but I obediently informed all those concerned.
The bishop came and all but one agreed to be welcomed into the church at this ceremony. One woman – one of Nick and Shirley's group - refused but still demanded to be put on the roll even though she had declared that she was a member of the Baptist church. I refused. Vestry took up her cause and wrote to the archdeacon.
The archdeacon (next rank down from a bishop) wrote back saying that of course she should be put on the roll, and obviously the vicar (me) was being totally insensitive! I obeyed his order and put her on the roll. Vestry members of Nick and Shirley's group had a field day abusing me and then wrote a letter – read out in church - apologising profusely to the woman for the vicar's “pastoral abuse” of her!
Besides this game of tag between the diocese and Nick & Shirley's group, there were some nasty things being done to fabricate false accusations which were then trumpeted far and wide. Here are just two:
For the first I am quoting, as before, from a contemporary “statutory declaration” made by the witness, The “meeting” she refers to was the one I had with the music group where Jane, the music leader had not told them what I intended as I had asked her to, but rather used the meeting to read out my private letter to Shirley removing her from the group and then to create mayhem.
“ It was a terrible meeting. Shortly after it I suffered a major panic attack and I had a minor breakdown. My treating doctor said that the meeting was the ‘icing on the cake’ which, on top of the family problems I was having at the time tipped me into that condition. I had never had an attack before.
As soon as David Greentree heard about it he contacted my home and spoke to my husband. At that time I was not able to speak on the telephone. My husband told David this, so ho didn’t ring me after that until I was much better and able to cope with phone calls.
However while I was sick I suffered a barrage of telephone calls mainly from Shirley xxx and some from (one of Shirley’s friends) even though they were told I found it difficult to speak on the telephone and needed rest and peace and quiet.
In these telephone calls Shirley said to me words to the effect “David doesn’t care about you” and “How many times has David been over to see you?”
I kept telling Shirley that David had rung up as soon as he heard and that I had asked people not to disturb me until I was feeling better, but it did not stop her constant calls and disparaging comments about David.
Whenever Shirley or (Shirley’s friend) rang me, the conversation would start with “How are you?” and then the rest of the conversation would be taken up with Shirley or (the friend) saying poisonous things about David.
Shirley often just referred to David as “Greentree” and kept saying such things as “This (meaning my breakdown) is all Greentree’s fault” and “Greentree’s going to pay for it” and “Look what Greentree’s done to you.”
The telephone calls became so frequent and so bad that I had to ask David to announce in church that no-one should phone me for the time being.
When I was feeling a little better one Sunday I came to church. Almost as soon as I set foot in the door, Andy xxx [an associate of Nick's] came up to me and said “Are you aware that your name has been left off the prayer sheet? Did you request that?” I was bewildered and said that I didn’t know anything about it.
When I went up to take Communion Shirley xxx and Judy xxx both came up beside me as I stood in the line, saying such things as “How do you feel about taking Communion from a man who cares so little about you that he takes your name off the prayer list without consulting you?”
I was so upset by their comments that I ran out of the church in tears.
I was followed out into the car park by Shirley xxx Judy xxx (and two of their supporters) to “comfort” me, saying such things as “David Greentree will get his just desserts” and “The man is evil” and “He will pay a price for what he has done to people like yourself.”
After all this I found out that David had not removed my name from the prayer list, but that Judy xxx (vicar’s secretary) had made an error and left it off the list when she was typing it. Yet she was one of the ones suggesting that David had done this to me.
David and Sue Greentree played a very great part in my recovery.”
(I have as usual put “xxx” in place of surnames, and I added the information that Andy was one of Nick's associates. Judy was indeed vicar's secretary – her employment was in the hands of vestry not the vicar! She was a close friend of Shirley's)
There was an elderly shut in lady who lived with her slightly retarded daughter. They were not able any more to sit through a church service, so I took communion to them once a month.
While I was on holidays the old lady died, (though only just before I returned). I came back to find that the funeral was to take place in the next door Anglican church. I rang the minister and he told me that the daughter had come to him as she had been told that I would not allow her mother’s funeral to take place in St. Luke’s. He graciously let me be part of the service at his church, which was attended by a large number from both St. Luke’s and the dissident’s church (this happened after Nick and Shirley's group had been given their own church just down the road from St. Luke's).
I visited the daughter later and obliquely tried to find out what had happened. She was reticent in a way that made me think she had been frightened into not to telling me anything. However she said enough to convince me that a certain woman had gone to her (possibly just before her mother died) and convinced them of the lie that I would not allow the funeral at St. Luke’s. Though how this person persuaded them of this when I had been faithfully taking them Communion every month I don’t know.
What I do know is that the Archbishop personally reprimanded me for “refusing to take this funeral”. He was not interested in my explanation, but named the person who had complained to him. You guessed it, the woman who complained to the archbishop was the same one who had set up the whole situation by lying to the two ladies!
So in both these, and who knows how many other instances Nick and Shirley's people themselves did something to cause hurt to someone, then blamed it on me, and then used it to cause trouble for me or to try to make the person turn against me and join their camp!