Who watches the watchman?

First published 23rd May 2012

Who watches the watchman? This is the motto written on the side of Commander Vimes' truncheon in the Discworld novels written by Terry Pratchett.

Sam Vimes is the Commander of the Ankh Morpork Watch - their police force - who is renowned for his integrity. In the book 'Thud', Vimes is infected by a supernatural influence called 'The Summoning Dark' which metaphorically swims through the city of his unconcious looking for an opportunity to take control of Vimes through fanning and directing his rage.

As the Summoning Dark swims, however, it hears the steady pursuit of heavy footsteps which eventually turns out to be Vimes' internal 'Watchman', an aspect of his unconcious which constantly patrols the city of his mind.

I love Terry Pratchett's books. I think many of the ideas he plays with in his fantasy world of Diskworld are hugely insightful - read 'Carpe Jugulum' for an interesting discussion of sin, evil and religion and 'A Hatful of Sky' for some very good ideas as to how we should train our curates....

But this idea of 'Who watches the Watchman?' resonates strongly at the moment. Part of the Ordinal describes priests as being 'messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord', watching over the people of God, watching for signs of God's kingdom. But who watches our parish clergy?

The Bishops, Archdeacons and Area Deans have this role, of course, but they are geographically distant from most clergy much of the time. So it is really important that the watchmen over our parishes set a watch over their own lives, constantly patrolling the boundaries of healthy behaviour and relationships in the parish and beyond.

And not just clergy but anyone in leadership who doesn't have someone in authority close by to help them stay safe. Perhaps this metaphor of a patrolling policemen through the city of our minds could be helpful for some?

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