Church/religion 6

We had the church fair last Saturday. The usual vast collection of hand-me-downs of everything from washing machines to children’s books, plus the usual plants, flowers, pots of marmalade and cakes. We managed to get there earlier than we usually do, and had a correspondingly good choice, so the final result was more satisfying than often. For the church, it was pretty satisfactory too, I think – $6500 was the provisional figure next morning.

We went to X’s induction. It is a funny little church – a sort of prefab hall, which they have been aiming to replace for a long time, I believe, but I seem to remember that the last Vicar but two or maybe three decided to use all the money to build the vicarage first. They had a very good turn out to fill the whole place, and sang very ‘hearty’, which was nice. And we had the new locally made service, so they did not have to process endlessly round the building singing odd verses of ‘We love the place, O God…’ Instead at the right point, various people bring up a chalice, a prayer book, a bible and offer them to the new Vicar with words to the effect ‘Mind you use this properly’ to which he replies to the bearer ‘Sure, I will’ and then to the congregation ‘And don’t you forget to come and see me at it’ or words to that effect.

We had harvest festival at the beach church last Sunday, and I took a box of apples, and little red tomatoes – and shall have to dig out another for next Sunday when we shall be going to X, who have their harvest festival then. The green cooker apple has got so much fruit on this year that you can hardly walk underneath it for all the windfalls which make it quite difficult not to turn ones ankles all the time!

X was invited to tea (at 2.30 if you please) by the wife of the ex-vicar where she found seven clergy wives she had collected in order to discuss some group for maintaining the rights of women, or something of the sort, which X did not approve of.

In spite of X’s depressing remarks about my star being a different colour/shape and in the wrong place when we’d spent a day making it and a morning hanging it, with Y on the roof pulling fishing thread through 2 light openings and me below tying it on and directing proceedings to make it hang straight, I was already feeling like hell and think that was the last straw to give me a migraine the next day. But it was a huge success and masses of people remarked on it. It was really rather bogey as we lighted it with blue spotlights from behind the screen and it threw a huge shadow of what looked like a dove descending on the back wall – also remarked on. A second spotlight was put on the crib (full size) which stood inside the altar rail on a bed of straw. At the beginning of the midnight service all the lights except the spotlights were put out and the choir came in with candles and it really looked beautiful.

I’ve been having a fairly miserable time this Lent,with my house group. I was asked by a lady down the road to join hers, which seemed a polite thing to do, rather than the group I have been going to for the last two years, which is several streets away, but in fact she has only managed to get three other members besides me, all women; and the material we have been using has been very lacking in real content, so we go at 10, chat until 10.30 while having a cup of tea, do the study which lasts about half an hour and may then chat for another half hour before going home. Never mind! There is only one more study left in the series now.

Have you by any chance heard tell of the ‘Toronto experience’? They had a couple of people talking about it at the evening services here a week or two ago, and my hostess in my group went along. Apparently what started happening at this small church near Toronto was that people started rolling in the aisles with laughter, without anything really amusing happening, but presumably just a release of tension of some sort, which they put down to the Holy Spirit. And it seems the same thing started happening here, and my hostess experienced it. When I told X about it she said she would like to go the next time they have one of these services, but I’m not sure myself whether I want to. We shall see.

Rolling in the aisles

We had brass bands most of the day on the radio, and a Gallipoli film on TV, and the usual parade service, which remains surprising popular, though I can’t really think why, because we use the same service papers and therefore the same hymns every year, and an address which is nearly always unsuitable. This time it was the headmaster of one of the secondary schools, who said he was going to say three things of which the third was particularly for the young people present. (There is always a full parade of scouts, guides and cubs plus some cadets.) In the first place he was barely audible, and very often not even barely, and secondly his language and content was quite over these small children’s heads. A pity.

We’ve gone back to our 5 p.m. winter time for the evening service from today (largely because War & Peace is too fierce a rival later on!)

We had so many heaters on that the trip-fuse blew during the sermon. What a blessing they are, compared to the old fuse where you had to mend them before turning them on again.

This last weekend I had a girl visiting who is to be married here in September and is determined to have a service of her own devising – which is an increasingly customary thing here. Apparently most the University Chaplains have a copy of a thing called a ‘marriage kit’ which is a sort of box file containing bits of any and every wedding service they can get hold of. The user picks out Introduction No. 3, Giving Away No. 5, Vows No. 2 etc. until they have the selection they want adding a few bits if they want to of their own composing. Unfortunately this girl’s literary taste is deplorable (although she is a secondary school teacher) and her service is a mass of sentimental and turgid gush – to my way of thinking. After one or two minor amendments and some more daring – such as actually including a prayer and a blessing, I told her that if she got it typed out I would submit it to the Bishop for his approval. Actually he is pretty conservative so he may well turn it down flat and I don’t know what happens then. They ought really go to a Registry Office I think.

The retreat was very enjoyable, as it was a silent one, but at the same time I knew most of the people there quite well. There is a lot to be said for not having to speak to people you know – or for knowing people you are going to be silent with! I didn’t particularly take to the conductor but that didn’t matter much.

Am now due to go and see X (ex Eighth Army brigadier) whom I am supposed to exchange war stories with, as he is not prepared to discuss his coming demise owing to raging empheseema (?).

I went out for a walk and suddenly saw X crossing the road from his car to the church. He had apparently come for the funeral of somebody I think of as an old boy. So in spite of my unfunereal dress I went in. And discovered among other things that the ‘old boy’ was just a year older than me! He had chosen to have the old prayer book service which was as wordy as ever and not as good, I feel, as the new one, but among other things we had ‘Jerusalem the golden’ which was fun.

We had an interesting conversation about the questionnaire the committee are contemplating on the subject of the way the clergy prepare people for marriage – but in fact it was pretty discursive and I don’t know that we got far. (I don’t know, mainly because I haven’t yet had time to think about it!) I had to go in again on Friday p.m. for a Prayer Book Committee. Put baldly you could say that we spent 2 1/2 hours talking about one sentence in an alternative Prayer of Consecration – but actually it was an interesting and quite useful meeting about the principles of what we were trying to do.

We had a rather mixed bag of instruction (with our Bishop well at the bottom, I thought – he varied from dull to abysmal!) – but I enjoy talking shop every now and then and I was asked to do a weekend course at the end of July which will give me something to think about when we are snowed up.

The Assistant Bishop told us a delightful story of a bishop he met at Lambeth (so the tale goes) who got himself engaged to be married rather late in life. Having little experience of how to live up to the occasion and being too shy to ask his colleagues he went to Foyle’s for enlightenment – refused the help of the assistant – but eventually found just what he felt he needed, though he was surprised at the price. It was a large volume entitled How to Hug. He hurried home with it, and settled himself down to read, only to find that he had acquired the XIth volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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