How I, the Parson of a Humble English Murder Village, Am Practicing Safe Social Distancing

Nicole Hill

Staff Writer

An aspiring Golden Girl, Nicole Hill is a former journalist and forever writer whose home is equal parts pet rescue and personal library. Nicole lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and growing canine and feline brood. Please send any and all book recs and review copies to

We’re revisiting some of our favorite posts of 2020 this holiday week! Grab a cup of cocoa and look back on some fun bookish goodness with us as we head toward the new year.

Hullo, there!

Welcome to Brackford. Under normal circumstances I, the genial and deceptively doddering parson, would be at the train station to greet you and welcome you personally to our charming town. Alas, in the current climate, this letter will have to suffice.

Brackford is a lovely village of 1,500 souls (though that number does have its peculiar little way of changing!). I think you’ll feel right at home among our fastidiously maintained gardens and horticulture, bustling local arts scene, and internationally renowned murder rate.

Conveniently, our town is situated between the equally charming hamlets of Shagsford and Cholmondley-upon-Westmoreland. Undoubtedly, you’ll be relieved to know there are multiple cemeteries to choose from in this tri-village area. Nearby Biggleston-by-Tweed even has its own crematorium.

Now, we are so very glad to have you here. But in this time of social distancing, things will be a little different than normal. You’ll be expected to keep to your cozy cottage and take scenic bicycle rides through the surrounding woods only when absolutely necessary.

Because I consider myself something of a moral and civic leader in Brackford (though Inspector Morrison surely will disagree!), I wish to outline the steps I am taking to keep you and the rest of my flock safe and healthy in this time of need. Below, find a copy of the letter I sent to residents last week.

In Regards to the Particulars of the Changes to Services Provided by Your Humble Local Parsonage

Dear Brackford residents,

As your parson, I have taken it upon myself to stay abreast of the latest developments in regards to self-isolation, social distancing, and the spread of disease. As a result, I will be taking the following actions for the foreseeable future to preserve the health and safety of our village.

  • Obviously, no one among us should be hosting any grand house parties, but if you do hold such an illicit soiree, know that I will not be in attendance! It would be irresponsible of me to attend (and irresponsible of you to host) such an event…Yet, if you feel you absolutely must, please remember to have another look at the chandelier. We have had so very many incidents with shoddily hung chandeliers. They’re a virus of their own.
  • Church grounds will remain open during this time, but I ask you to keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and fellow parishioners during your planned and unplanned strolls. And, as always, I ask you to look up from time to time lest you pass underneath any tenuously installed gargoyles along the eaves. Those nimble of feet will receive a friendly no-contact welcome from myself or our beloved reclusive groundskeeper, ‘arold.
  • I will hear confession as normal for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, I already keep a relentless regiment of disinfecting the confessional booth and surrounding areas—ever since we lost Mrs. Kembleton in that nasty business five years back. I am unaware of any symptoms of the current virus that result in coughing blood, or the issuance of it otherwise, but rest assured that I am well-versed in stain removal.
  • All scheduled charity events with the local theater troupe have been canceled, as has the annual flower show. And under no circumstances will we proceed with any fundraising events with traveling circuses. This may be for the best, allowing last year’s disastrous proceedings to fade from our memories.
  • Temporarily, I will be suspending my door-to-door ministry. You are welcome to phone the parsonage with any needs or prayer requests. I would ask something of you, my esteemed parishioners: Please check on your neighbors—not physically of course! Should you notice a day go by without your neighbor tending to their decorative flower garden, hanging clothes from the line, or generally greeting another fine brisk day, please ring them at home. If you receive no answer, phone the police station so it might be assessed whether the matter is medical or criminal in nature.

I appreciate your patience during these unusual times for our village, and for our world. The above actions reflect the church’s response to recent events, as well as my own. For any questions about the larger village response, please contact Inspector Morrison at the police station or the mayor at…well, perhaps Inspector Morrison will know how to reach the mayor (and just who the mayor is).

Yours from afar,

The Parson

P.S. If you, like me, are in need of some reading material for this time of relative solitude, perhaps the following recommendations will be helpful.