Ten Commandments and the Umbrella

Man – proudest possession was his umbrella – finest in village, always took it to church to show it off.

One Sunday came with sad face and without umbrella. Priest asked where it was.
“Can’t find it anywhere, think jealous neighbour has stolen it, but no proof.”

Priest: “Idea – use Bible to find truth. Invite neighbour to dinner, turn conversation to Ten Commandments, recite them, watch neighbour’s face at no. 8: Thou shalt not steal.”

Next Sunday, man in church with smile and umbrella.

Priest: “Ah, reciting Ten Commandments worked, I see.”

Man: “Yes, but didn’t need to get to no. 8.
Already when I recited no. 7: Thou shalt not commit adultery – well, I remembered where I’d left it!”

I was told this joke one evening by a friend and great raconteur, Hans-Werner.
After posting it, I was delighted to hear from my father that, when vicar at St. Peter’s in Congleton, Cheshire, in the 1960s, he’d been told the same story by the parish sexton and grave-digger, Peter Coppenhall.
I took the photographs of the church’s 18th century reredos during a nostalgic visit with my sister to the town in 2015, the first return in almost 30 years.
St. Peter’s is one of the finest examples of Georgian church architecture in the country.

My sister later found this snapshot of Peter holding his sexton’s staff, with my father wearing his ecclesiastical robes.

Peter Coppenhall also taught me how to dig graves – the first part-time job I ever had. I use Peter when opening Blacksmith and the Devil.

Prayer the Gods Answered is another tale Hans-Werner told me.

A biblical note

A good friend, Thomas Hoffmeister-Höfener, enjoys telling this tale. Being more biblically versed than me, I was interested to learn from him that the Ten Commandments are numbered differently in different denominations of the church!

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Permission to tell outlines my views on copyright

For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling