Some fifty years before the Vikings began their raids on northern Britain, a few Scandinavians had already arrived by ship on the Dorset coast. No one is sure what became of these earliest pioneers: some believe they were spies, checking out our advanced agricultural techniques or looking for ways to win the Eurovision song contest; others that they were refugees fleeing from Viking tyranny who quickly integrated into Dorset life. Twelve hundred years later, it is hard to say exactly what has drawn three present-day travellers from Scandinavia to turn up in the Chase Benefice. So far there have been no reports of them behaving like their warmongering ancestors, and local inhabitants are cautiously trusting that their intentions are entirely peaceable. But history shows that you never can be too careful.
You will perhaps recall that concerns were expressed back in 1987 when Ingvar Kamprad, the deceptively mild-mannered Swedish chief of a new expansionist empire, first came to the UK to prepare for what was to become a massive invasion. It all began innocuously enough with a single shop selling flatpack furniture in Warrington, but within just 30 years, more than 20 gigantic IKEA stores had been established throughout the UK. Today there is hardly a home in the UK that doesn’t bear the scars of that fateful conquest, and millions of unsuspecting shoppers have become addicted to their meatballs, cinnamon buns and free refills.
So what do we know so far? David Miell, his wife Henriët, and Henriët’s mother Tineke, together with their little dog, Kado, left Sweden in June and, just like many of their marauding predecessors, landed by boat on the east coast of England. Fortunately, the UK authorities knew immediately of their arrival and ensured that they remained in quarantine for a considerable time while official checks on their whereabouts were carried out daily. Yet somehow, before we knew it, they had set up camp in Tarrant Hinton Rectory, claiming that this is where they hope to remain for the next three years.
Moreover, Church of England officials have conducted various interviews and investigations, as David and Henriët both claimed to be priests. Whether they in fact worship the Norse gods Thor and Odin remains to be seen, but since we haven’t had a priest in the Rectory for a while, the Church Councils have agreed to give them the benefit of the doubt. So please listen carefully to their every word - and if you hear any strange doctrines being perpetrated, report them immediately to the churchwardens. As a precautionary measure David was required to declare his allegiance to the bishop and to the Queen at a special service on 26 July. Rest assured then that a very close episcopal eye will be kept on these strangers in our midst.
So, friends, in the spirit of true Christian charity, let us be bold and not be afraid to offer these newcomers among us a friendly welcome. For, although we must learn the lessons of history, they might turn out, to be just like those first Scandinavian visitors to Dorset in AD 787 - simple settlers looking forward to making new friends and enjoying the countryside, while humbly plying their trade as makers of pots, paintings and cinnamon buns. And, if they really are priests, perhaps they may even be of some help to us in these uncertain times. Let us dare to live in hope!