1634: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 38:
Several hours later, after Gayle took down all the radio messages relayed from Amsterdam that had come in during the evening window, she came into the main room with a big grin on her face.
“Speaking of divine intervention, you’re all going to love this. Especially you, Rita.” She held up a message in her hand, one of the little notepad sheets she used to record radio transmissions.
“What is it?” demanded Rita, rising from the divan and extending her hand.
“Tut, tut! It’s not for you, dear, it’s for your husband.” Still grinning, Gayle came over and handed the message to Tom, who’d remained sitting.
Tom read it. Then read it again. Then, read it again.
"Well," Rita asked impatiently. "What?"
"It's from Mrs. Riddle." He reached up and started scratching his hair. “’Bout the last thing I ever expected.”
"The wife of the chief justice?" Melissa asked. "Why would she be sending you a radio message?"
"No, not her. Chuck Riddle's mother."
Rita nodded. "Mary Kat's grandma. She was a year ahead of me in high school. Mary Kat, that is. Not Veleda. What does she want?"
“Here, read it yourself. Better read it out loud, while you’re at it.”
Rita took the message and began reciting it so everyone could hear. By the time she got to the last few sentences, she was rushing.
TOM. WHILE YOU'RE THERE. EPISCOPALIANS IN GRANTVILLE HAVE NO PRIEST. SHOULD HAVE A BISHOP TOO BUT THAT GETS COMPLICATED. ARRANGE TO SEE ARCHBISHOP LAUD. BE ORDAINED. AS A PRIEST IF NOTHING ELSE BUT SHOOT FOR BISHOP. AM SURE HE CAN MAKE AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULES. BEST WISHES. V RIDDLE
"Ordained?" Rita's voice rose to a shriek. "Over my dead body!"
Melissa Mailey looked concerned. "Tom, you've never said anything about having a religious vocation."
"Well, I didn't have one.” He cleared his throat. “Until now."
"You don't have one now!" Rita protested.
Tom settled back in the divan. He seemed to be struggling against a smile—or a grin as wide as the one still on Gayle’s face.
"Yes, I do, dear. You read it yourself. I didn't have one two minutes ago, but I do now." He looked up at his very non-Episcopalian wife, the grin started to show around the edges of his still-solemn face. "You can't think of it—a vocation, I mean—as being something that's all inside you. It's like those bishops and things back in the early church, who wrapped their arms around a pillar of the church yelling, 'No. Not me!’ while the congregation dragged them out to be promoted."
Melissa nodded, apparently quite solemnly. Rita just looked blank.
Tom continued, "Or, maybe like the prophets in the Old Testament who were just sitting there when the voice of God mucked up all their plans. Jonah, for instance. God said, 'Go there,' and he said, 'I don't think so, thank you very much,' so it took some persuading. A calling can come from outside, too.”
There was no smile on Rita’s face, for sure. "I wasn't born to be a preacher's wife,” she hissed. “No. Tell her no. That's easy enough."
Tom went back to scratching his hair, lowering his face in the process. In that pose, the grin that was now spreading openly on his face made him look a bit like a weight-lifter shark, coming to the surface. "She does have a point, you know. That is, the Episcopalians in Grantville do need a priest, for sure, and we should really have a bishop.”
He pointed to the message still in Rita's hand. “The reason it gets complicated is because none of the national churches in the Anglican Polity—that’s what we called all right-thinking Episcopalians all over the world, back where we came from—actually had any authority over each other. But they all recognized the Archbishop of Canterbury as sort of the first among equals, so it makes sense to see if he’d be willing to get the ball rolling.”
He looked over at Melissa, still grinning. “Maybe I should just ask Laud for an appointment? Talk to him about it? What could it hurt?"
"What could it hurt?” Rita’s fists were clenched. “I could end up chairing Ladies' Aid meetings at a church I don't even belong to!"
Gayle and Tom started laughing. Even Melissa was smiling, now. “I agree, Rita. Fate worse than death—and I’ve chaired a lot of godawful meetings in my day.”
Eventually, Rita’s glare stifled her husband’s laughter. “Look, sweetheart, I’ve actually got no intention of proposing myself. I have no idea why Mrs. Riddle came up with the idea. But if you strip that aside, she does have a point. We’ve got some Episcopalians in Grantville, with no structure—and no clear idea how to set one up with legitimate authority. Like she says, we’d be bending the rules—so would Laud, although he doesn’t know the rules have been set up yet—but I’m pretty sure she’s right. If I could get the Archbishop of Canterbury to ordain somebody—or send somebody himself—we’d be off and running.”
Tom shook his head. "It wouldn't have to be me, or anybody in Grantville. Maybe the archbishop could find someone else to send, from England. Someone who wants to be a missionary in foreign parts, or just someone he'd like to get rid of."
"He'd like to get rid of us, I expect," Darryl McCarthy interjected.
“Yes, he would,” said Melissa. She looked at the message. “Especially after I pass this along.”