When I was a probationer minister in my first church, I once had a phone call from a friend of my wife who had moved into a private preparatory school nearby. It was the middle of the night. She told me that all her electricity had gone off. Would I come?
Well, Joyce, you don't need me. You need an electrician, don't you? She said: "I've called the Electricity Board and they're sending a man round. I don't want to be alone in my flat with a man at this time of night. Will you come?"
Being a gallant knight with a maiden in distress I went round. It was a cold night but she had had so many appliances on at the same time that she had overloaded the system and fused everything.
But what a comment on my virility. She did not want to be alone with a man! Would I go? At least she trusted me! It is symptomatic of the fact that there are three sexes, male, female and clergy. Motorists stop at zebra crossings for very old ladies laden with shopping and for clergy. Wear a clerical collar and you can guarantee a table seat to yourself in a railway carriage. People steer clear rather than risk you talking about God. God is an embarrassing subject.
The TV portrayal of male ministers shows them all too often as a bit soft in the head, not a man like other men. The bumbling figure of Derek Nimmo became the stereotype. What can a male minister do to demonstrate that he is a man and not a feeble wimp? But then we are perhaps dealing with the world's wrongful understanding of gender, which is much more complex than has habitually been thought, and it is that that needs to change.