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On Sunday morning, the Reverend Stuart Campbell climbed into the pulpit and he began to preach his sermon to the good people of Bath. His theme this week was the trans movement and the text that he had chosen came from Leviticus, namely, “And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination.” Yet when the vicar happened to look up he perceived, through the unearthly rainbow light that streamed through the Greg Moodie stained-glass windows, that his congregation was greatly thinner today than was normal.

For on the computer monitor that faced him, there were only four or five parishioners in attendance. And then the reverend saw that one had suddenly left the Zoom meeting, with their image popping into nothing like a soap bubble. And then another.

There was evidently no point in continuing the sermon. The vicar announced that he would recite the Lord’s Prayer and he then rattled messily through it, spitting out the verses in a couple of jumbled mouthfuls. After bestowing a final comment on one or two members of the trans community who had particularly displeased him this week, and subjecting them to some suitably heartfelt abuse, he logged out.

Where was everyone? Suspiciously, he decided to google “Sunday sermons in Bath.” The very first result to come back was an open invitation to a sermon by a visiting preacher, the Very Reverend Mike Small, Moderator of the Wee Free Kirk of Bella Caledonia. The reverend clicked on the link and soon he was making his way to the relevant Zoom session. On he clicked, snarling impatiently.

He was amazed to discover that Bath’s townspeople were viewing this sermon in their hundreds. And then, as the words of the Reverend Small finally landed on his understanding, his heart seemed to slide like a thousand falling bricks and next the horror was rolling bottomlessly.

“Yes, and let me tell you, the biggest humbug of all to pollute your fine city of Bath is none other than the Reverend Stuart Campbell! This guy is one percent churchman and ninety-nine percent troll! He is the poo emoji in the text message of the Scottish nationalist movement! He is bile and he is vile! People have said to me, ‘Don’t bother preaching against the Rev Stu. You are both on the same side. It is like when Scottish nationalism was implicitly welcomed by Hitler during the Second World War. Sometimes, a bit of short-term dodginess will be all to the good in the end.’ Well, let me tell you, Hitler might be one thing but this so-called vicar is quite another!”

The reverend whimpered to himself and his hands curled powerlessly as he continued to bake in the blast from this new preacher.

“The Reverend Stuart Campbell is more dog whistle than dog collar! There’s not one thing that has been said by him that hasn’t been said before by Donald Trump! This vicar is a misogynist – he’s a trans hate abuser!”

The reverend listened bewildered to these words. Since when had misogyny been such a problem?

The Reverend Small’s sermon crescendoed masterfully. “So let us boot this scumbag out of Bath altogether! Bath cannot ever be a respectable town if it has a disgraceful vicar! Let us give this hoodlum the heave-ho!”

All week the townspeople of Bath were telling each other what a treat the Reverend Small’s sermon had been. It was much better than the average Church of England moanathon, where some hand-wringing fusspot would drone on inconclusively about poverty and food banks. Instead, this had been a sermon with welly! But when the Reverend Stuart Campbell chanced to hear these remarks – or when a parishioner would very gently allude to the success of his rival’s sermon – he would snap back immediately that they should just wait! This Sunday coming his own sermon was going to dispel any fleeting impression of magnificence that might have rubbed off from the newcomer’s efforts.

The Reverend Stuart Campbell had his dander up to fever pitch. All of Bath waited in excitement.

On Sunday, the vicar practically bounded into his pulpit. He saw that Bath’s townspeople had tuned in in unprecedented numbers. Even the Reverend Small might have been discreetly monitoring too from the back. The Reverend Stuart Campbell took a deep breath of the holy air before exploding at once into his sermon.

“I am no shrinking violet!” the vicar shrieked. “But let me tell you, there is no bigger humbug in Bath this morning than the Very Reverend Mike Small, this absolute animalcule behind the Wee Free Bella Caledonia! What a bunch of braindead wankers!”

Bath gasped in delight. This was going to be a sermon in a million.

Bella Caledonia is Scottish nationalism at its ponciest! This is artisanal Scottish nationalism! – chai-frappuccino slurping, vegan-sourdough munching Scottish nationalism! – Scottish nationalism as it is conducted by the clueless BAME-pots who constitute the most timewasting of academia! A Scottish nationalism where everybody is invited – every Vagina-Helmet wearing feminist hag! – every gender-dysphoric metrosexual pervert! – every militant wet-wipe from the LGBTTTQQIAA+ community – everybody, in fact, except the ordinary decent folks on the street! Well, as Jesus Christ had once said to the Pharisees…”

Not since the publication of Pride and Prejudice had Bath witnessed such a rhapsody of eloquence. This surely confirmed what everybody had always said: that the Reverend Stuart Campbell was the greatest wordsmith to walk beneath the spires of Bath since Jane Austen herself.

The two preachers raged and rolled around the town, abusing each other in every pub and to every catcalling audience that they could scrape together. Finally, they met in person, on the green where the Morris men (trans inclusive) normally danced around the maypole

“Who’s he going to abuse next?” the Reverend Small appealed to those around him, wagging his head. “BAME care workers? Me Too victims? Captain Tom?”

“Is it the Free Puny-Wee Fucking Kirk or is it the Church of Judas?” the Reverend Stuart Campbell bellowed deafeningly. “I see that Bella Caledonia refuses to even mention the fact that Nicola Sturgeon might have done anything wrong, let alone sold her boss to the Unionists for thirty pieces of silver. Nicola Sturgeon is the fart in the Reverend Mike Small’s spacesuit but he won’t let on that the air isn’t sweet, eh!”

The Reverend Small turned on the vicar, his face shiny with fury. “Oh for fuck’s sake, how can you even contribute the first thing to our movement, you total tool? You live in fucking Ba…”

The townspeople hastened to reconcile the warring vicars. “Reverends, this is so sad, please put aside this divisiveness,” they begged.

All at once, the Reverend Stuart Campbell had frozen, perplexed. These words seemed to ring in his head like a piercing little bell.

Maybe they had a point? After all, he and the Reverend Small were both trying to tear their entire country in two. How could they let such a noble project be tarnished by divisiveness?

The Reverend Small nodded wonderingly in agreement. He had dedicated his life to bringing back nationalism and to conducting a national revival on the Left (of all places). How could such a mission succumb to pettiness and small-mindedness?

So they made up on the spot. “Please forgive me,” the Reverend Small implored. “I’m sorry that I looked at your nationalism and saw only abuse and bitterness.”

“The fault was all my own,” the Reverend Stuart Campbell replied solemnly. “I’m sorry that I looked at your nationalism and saw only a collection of bores and narcissists.”

Later that day, the two churchmen happened to meet each other again outside the Honeysuckle Cottage Hospital, Bath’s prime health hub. They were both due to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations.

 “After you, Reverend Small,” the Reverend Stuart Campbell insisted. “I would be honoured!”

 “Goodness me vicar, I couldn’t possibly. After you! The honour is mine entirely!”

 “Come on boys!” the matron called. “We have a long queue to get through!”

 After the Reverend Small had been injected, the Reverend Stuart Campbell sat down to await his needle. “I suppose that you must be glad to see this,” the matron chuckled cheerfully. “It sounds like things aren’t so organised up in that Scotland of yours.”

The Reverend Stuart Campbell turned a glaring witch’s head on her. His eyes were popping in their sockets and foam poured from his mouth. “Are you a fucking trannie?” he hissed.

“Oh no vicar,” the matron hastened to assure him. “I was merely saying that an independent Scotland would be back in the EU, so you wouldn’t have any COVID vaccinations. Indeed, I guess that your poor country would be locked down forevermore, until the day whenever the EU had managed to organise some.”

The vicar gave her a chill bleak glare. The Reverend Small shook his head in disappointment and looked away.

Outside, the two men could not contain their contempt for the matron’s thoughtless remarks.

“It’s astonishing the sheer lack of intelligence of that woman,” the Reverend Small exclaimed.

“Yeah, she’s been obviously brainwashed by the Unionist media. It’s embarrassing what she was saying.”

The Reverend Small nodded earnestly. “The most simplistic analysis imaginable. It’s embarrassing, as you said. I mean, it’s almost as if she thought the vaccination programme shows that our whole ideology somehow doesn’t work.”

The Reverend Stuart Campbell laughed derisively. “It’s lucky that we’re both working in the alternative media, so that we’re able to combat such simplistic misinformation.”

And with this the two churchmen went off on their way, to fight the good fight.